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Foreign Names On English Menus And Bills Of Fare
The names on menus and bills of fare have often called forth sarcastic comment and indeed, much of this criticism has been justified. Several reasons for applying foreign names have been given. It has been said that many names cannot be translated in a concise form and furthermore that translations do not properly express the meaning of the foreign names. (One must admit that a translated term is always better understood by the average guest than a foreign term even if the translation does not exactly express the meaning.) The real reason is that many foreign names, especially French names, have been familiar to all professionals for a long time and the translations of such words make a strange impression on them and are therefore not used. If translated names were introduced by the leading hotels and restaurants, after a time nobody would find anything unusual in them. It depends on one's will to see or not to see the meaning in a sensible translation. People recognise in Liberty cabbage the well known German aSaue r-k r a u t". This proves that not only translations but even new names can be introduced if the will is there. The application Sour-c rput would be the correct one, and if used there would be no trouble in recogrising the German word "S a u e r k r a u t". It is foolish to introduce new names for foreign terms when a translation is easily found, but it is wise tid fcse translated names if the translation is a sensible one.
But nevertheless there are names which should not be translated, as these are given to entirely new and classified dishes, just as new names are given to newly discovered chemical compounds or other inventions, for instance as in fricassee, ragout, mayonnaise, etc. Since no names can be taken in the vocabulary of the English language, proper accents (eeen), they have to be omitted. In the German and Spanish language they do not omit accents entirely but write the words according to their pronunciation, which latter feature would, of course, not be necessary for the most of foreign words to be used in the English language.
Also style expressions should not be translated, such as for instance: Potatoes, liberty fried Jf or Fried potatoes, German (German fried potatoes). It is great to be patriotic but patriotism must not lead to extremities. Hundreds of styles of preparation are named after German states and cities, and to change these style names would make the culinary language a greater medley than it already is. Some time ago there was quite a discussion about changing the name of Maitre d'hotel. It is hard to pronounce and, as a matter of fact, the duties of a Maitre d'hotel here are very different from that of his colleagues in France. In this case it would be advisable not to translate the above title but to find a new name. Proposing the name Service Manager, I am quite sure that many will say that the title does not fully express the duties of a Maitre d'hotel of to-day. If we want a new and short title that expresses fully the duties, we will never find one, but if we make up our minds to substitute the name Service Ma n a g e r for that of Maitre d'hdtel we will meet with no difficulty. If the foolish new name of Liberty cabbage can be accepted in place of 8 auer Jc rant why not put Service Manager, or another short name in place of that of the Maitre d'hdtel of to-day.
In cases where it would not be advisable to translate certain terms into English, there are still many other names which could be used to better advantage. And yet we continue to see names of dishes on bills of fare that give a poor idea of these particular dishes. The majority of these names are in French.
It is not necessary for one to be anti-French to advocate the use of plain English, and intelligible names of dishes on table cards. The world is greatly indebted to French culinary art, but as far as the naming of dishes is concerned the hotel and restaurant guest must not be ignored. The guests are the ones who pay for the meals and therefore have a certain claim, and are entitled to demand clear, intelligible menus and bills of fare. Besides it is to the advantage of every host, for it prevents unnecessary questions on the part of the guests, who generally do not understand foreign names. Every merchant advertises his goods in as plain and intelligible language as possible, and so demonstrates all advantages to his customers, a business method which should be followed by the hotel and restaurant men.
Once more, as given in the preface: All those engaged in the restaurant trade do or should knoiv (though some don't ivant to) that a plain and intelligible menu and bill of fare is exactly the same as an attractive advertisement in a magazine, or any other paper, and has the same value of silent salesmanship.
Let us quote further instances where foreign names appear on menus and bills of fare and produce again the same dishes intelligible. (May it be understood that the following first is a true copy of a menu but not given here as a masterpiece of a combination of dishes but simply as an instance as to the naming).
Petits Pains de Caviar aux Huitres.
Tortue verte claire.
Saumon with filets a la d'Orly.
Epaule of Lamb a la Montmorency.
Filet of Beef Robert.
Supreme de Pintade.
Asperges, Jambon fume.
Sorbet au Kirsch.
Nesselrode Pudding Garvais.
Musk Melon Caviar on Rolls with Oysters Clear green Turtle Soup Boiled Salmon with baked Trout Filets, Orly Larded, stuffed Shoulder of Lamb, Montmorency Tenderloin of Beef, Robert Supreme of glazed Guinea Fowl Asparagus with smoked Ham Sherbet with Cherry Brandy Chestnut Pudding, Nesselrode Gervais Cheese Coffee.
It is a shame to disguise wonderful dishes like these in the first instance, by names which cannot be understood by most people. The appetizing and spontaneous effect that such a meal would have upon guests, if presented in an intelligible manner, is altogether lost.
There are other reasons why some business men keep foreign names on bills of fare. Those who offer their guests plain French cards think perhaps that these show a higher class of establishment, or they wish to show that real French cooking by French cooks is done in their kitchens. This may be good in places where the majority of guests are French or speak French, although an English translation at the side of the French card would be far better. That French cooking is done in a house can be made known to the guests by having a notice to this effect printed on the cards.
Another reason for using French cards or partly English - French and other foreign names is shown by the words of a man in the profession. "I don't wish to give any professional secrets away, but "entre nous", do you think it easy to sell Irish Stew for 75 cents, per, when you can sell Navarin Agneau a VIrlandaise for a dollar? This gentleman does not want to divulge any business secret, but gives away the main one to some restaurant men without considering that the people who are used to paying a good price for such a dish do not care so much about expense, but gladly would order and pay for it, if they knew what it was and if it is well prepar ed; some might be looking for this very dish and are unable to find it. I would like to ask the gentleman if he kept such statistics as are given in the following pages? All business men a-greeing with this colleague are losers, and do not know it. And many do lose, especially in restaurants connected with a bar or hotel, or both. Some also know that they are losers but carelessly do not give it a consideration as long as the rooms and bar sIioav a great profit that makes more than good the loss in the restaurant. How often have I drawn the attention of some business men to their loss in the restaurants but in the most cases with the unbusiness-like answer : "I know it, but Ave make more than good the loss on drinks and by renting rooms." I wish that bone dry prohibition will never take effect but if it should come, thousands of restaurant men who connect their business with a bar will have to learn all over again, to partly make good in the restaurant that which they earned before by selling drinks. Other high class restaurants without hotel and alcoholic drinks do splendidly. Why should not those that are connected with a bar? There is a reason. Certainly not the intelligible naming of dishes as the main factor but in the first line excellent and economic cooking and such couched on bills of fare in intelligible words. Good cooking should not be hidden by foreign names. It does not deserve it. And if it is done then the business men are poor advertisers. If restaurateurs use foreign names here and there because they do not know the right translation then there is an excuse. But if one uses foreign names simply to get a higher price, then the business is not based on high principles. "People want to be fooled," is often the reply. Put the matter to a test by going among guests as a guest and you will find out. The result will be an unexpected one. Those people who want to be fooled are few compared to the large number of guests who do not, and certainly they do not increase the profit when one considers what could be sold otherwise. Is the profit larger direct or indirect, if 50 portions of Irish stew can be sold for 75c. each, instead of 10 portions of Navarin d'agneau a Virlandaise for a dollar?