Monday, April 28, 2008

Lost in Translation

Gordon Ramsay, the culinary world's bad-boy chef, has just published a book with the title Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food. The book promises to help ordinary people cook good meals at home promptly and efficiently.

The idea, according to Ramsay, is to encourage people not to "skip meals or resort to junk food, however busy [they] are." But the new book gets a distinct thumbs-down from Slate's Laura Shapiro, who complains that Ramsay and his publisher "made no effort to translate this book into Americanese."

Shapiro writes:
The moment Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food was published in the United Kingdom last spring, it became a best-seller, praised for its fresh, accessible recipes. But while Ramsay has a devoted following on this side of the Atlantic, too, it's a bit unclear whether the recipes will get a similar welcome here.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that the folks who invented toad-in-the-hole are now serving their kids poached duck eggs with anchovy fingers, but it's hard to picture an American family breaking into glad cries at the sight of the same meal. Ditto the supper featuring warm blood sausage, though I'd like to be there when Mom offers it to the field hockey team.

Other recipes call for Charlotte potatoes, pata negra ham, and fresh gooseberries, all of which your staff can easily round up for you — that's how Ramsay gets them — but if you don't live near one of the six remaining butchers in the United States, good luck with the lamb rumps and the oven-ready quails.

"Recipes give both standard American measures and metric measures," says a helpful note. Not quite. Many ingredients are listed only by weight — 9 ounces of sliced mushrooms — as if Americans kept scales in the kitchen the way Europeans do.

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