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Gastronomy Translation: Art or Science?

Gastronomy is one of those activities that are present in every culture. And it’s gastronomy translation what makes it possible for cultural wisdom to cross borders.

Some people speak of gastronomy as “a culinary art”, while others prefer to call it “gastronomic science”. What group is right? Is gastronomy a creative activity or a scientific endeavour? And what about gastronomy translation? Keep reading to find out our take on the matter.

Our CFO and Senior Translator, Antonella Racca, has been specialising in gastronomy and tourism for many years. She’s actually a cook herself (and a really good one!). Moreover, she’s been helping her family manage a tourist resort since her teenage years. Having provided translation services to brands such as Knorr, Kellogg’s, Heinz, and dozens of Argentine and American restaurants (several of which have been rated in the Michelin guide), we asked her to enlighten us on the topic of this article.

Antonella Racca

What the Expert Has to Say

This is what Antonella had to say when we asked her whether gastronomy is an art or a science:

“It’s a bit of both. To begin with, the term gastronomy is, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, ‘the art and practice of cooking and eating good food (Wehmeier 2000).’ And I agree! Despite it being different from the normal conception of ‘creativity’, cooking is a form of art. And enjoying good food is like appreciating fine art. Ask any chef and they will say that they express themselves through their cooking. Similarly, ask any foodie and they will say that enjoying fine cuisine is as satisfying as watching ballet or admiring a famous painting. Also, presenting meals on a plate requires a lot of creativity! I’m sure you’ve witnessed this the last time you dined at a fine restaurant.

At the same time, however, there’s a science to it. I mean, there’s a reason we follow recipes! Cooking is basically a laboratory experiment in your kitchen. Dishes have been invented by experimentation and have been passed down generations orally or in writing. Besides, we all know how catastrophic everything can get if you use too much or too little of a certain ingredient in a mix.

It’s also worth pointing out that many people tend to forget what is, in my opinion, the true role of gastronomy. Regardless of how much art or science there is to it, gastronomy is all about being swept by your feet and immersed in the culture that created the dish. Whenever I taste the amazing tiramisu my mum prepares, for example, I truly feel I’m in Italy. So yes, there’s art and there’s science… but there’s also magic!”

What About Gastronomy Translation?

To this question, Antonella replied:

“Just like cooking, gastronomy translation has both a creative and a technical side. Some texts will show one of those sides more than the other. In relation to gastronomy translation being technical, if you are translating the package instructions of a certain product, any lack of terminological consistency can end up in chaos. I mean, it can significantly affect the behaviour of whoever uses the product. Same thing for recipes. In Spanish, for example, some ingredients or foods have more than one name. Besides, this varies to an incredible extent across countries and across regions of the same country! If you don’t stick to one denomination throughout the translated recipe, or if you fail to localise terms correctly, the recipe will likely go wrong. Needless to say, the brand will fail from a marketing point of view, too.

One example of the creative aspect of gastronomy translation is that gastronomy texts are often flowery and poetic. They need to appeal to the reader in such a way that the flavour of a whole culture (and not just of a particular dish) is conveyed in the translation. Another example is whenever gastronomy translation overlaps with Marketing translation. The food and drink industry is, in many economies, the largest manufacturing sector. As such, companies’ marketing and branding efforts are of essential importance to generating revenue. And we all know how creative marketing needs to be to achieve its desired results!”

Get in Touch with Antonella

Do you own a restaurant, a food magazine, a hotel, a cooking blog, or any other type of gastronomy content channel? If you want to reach Spanish-speaking audiences with translations that are both technically accurate and artistic, get in touch with Antonella today.

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