Translating in the kitchen

It just occurred to me that I approach adapting my favourite French recipes (to make them Kosher) in very much the same way I adapt, rather than translate word for word, English texts into French.

Translating is not substituting one word or expression for another. It is rendering context, feel, style, intent, rhythm, sound, pace, and of course, meaning. In the same way, when adapting a recipe for a Kosher kitchen, simply substituting systematically one ingredient for another can only lead to a complete disaster disappointment.


There are simply no substitutes for ingredients like butter, milk, crème fraîche, or pork. Soy milk in a Béchamel is not a substitute, it is a cop out.

It betrays both a lack of imagination and a lack of appreciation for what Béchamel is supposed to be, just as “rétroaction” is a lazy and inaccurate translation for “feedback”, though approved by official instances it may be (there, I said it).

In translation as in adapting recipes, the goal is to produce a result that can stand on its own merit and do justice to the original. There is no point in going through the exercise otherwise.


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