Cook Books. A Translator’s Last Fear



by Carmen Ferreiro

With Thanksgiving Day only one day away, it’s no wonder I was thinking about cooking today, or more exactly about what I’m going to cook on Thursday.
After living in the States for over twenty years, I consider myself totally bilingual. I can switch from English to Spanish and back at the drop of a word. Even the newspaper headlines, a puzzle that needed careful deciphering when I first moved here, hold no mystery for me.
But the moment I open a cook book, all my years of experience disappear and I feel again as lost as I did, so many years ago in California, when they first asked me if I wanted my sandwich “for here or to go.”
The first problem when trying to decipher an American recipe is, of course, the crazy system of measurements they still use. The moment I read cups, pints, fluid ounces and the like my head starts spinning. Then, there is the specific culinary vocabulary, and last but not less baffling, the cooking itself. I learned to cook in Spain, using olive oil and lots of onion and garlic and tomato in almost every recipe. I learned to mix ingredients together and prepare two course dinners. Yes, I know, that was a long time ago. Yet still, I haven’t changed my cooking patterns. Not a bit.
To my children’s friends’ surprise there is no ketchup in my refrigerator, or mac and cheese in my pantry, and I always drink my coffee black, an espresso, in a small cup.
I guess that, where food is concerned, I’m still one hundred percent Spanish and cooking a big turkey with bread crumbs inside is not in my genes, and the recipe to do so is not in any of my Spanish books. Which means that if I’m going to prepare the big bird, I’d have to follow an American recipe.
And I’m not sure I’m ready yet.
What about you? Do you find cook books from a country different than yours intimidating?

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban was born in Galicia (northern Spain) and went to college in Madrid, where she finished her Ph.D. in Biology. For the next ten years, she worked as a researcher both in Madrid and at the University of Davis in California. Since 2000 she has being a translator (En<>Sp) and writer (English and Spanish). Her two writer websites are: and You can also follow her at her blog:

She’s working right now at creating her website as a translator.

Carmen Ferreiro, Ph.D.

Writer/Editor/Translator (En<>Sp)
Life Sciences/Medical/Pharmaceutical/Literary


Credit for picture: France: The Beautiful Cookbook- Authentic Recipes from the Regions of France by Gilles Pudlowski, Pierre Hussenot, Peter Johnson and Leo Meier (Nov 7, 1989)