Gastronomic translation as a specialized branch

When we talk about gastronomy, we do not limit ourselves only to the set of food or typical dishes of the area, but it is a much broader concept that encompasses, among other things, food customs, traditions, processes, people and lifestyles that are defined around it.

In this sense, we have been able to observe how in recent times there has been a growing interest in traditional foods and typical dishes, a fact that has influenced the elevation of gastronomy and its consideration as an indispensable part of the cultural heritage. In fact, given the ability of gastronomy to attract travelers, it is not surprising that in many cases it comes to be considered as the main motivation for the journey.

Gastronomy and tourism

The specialty of gastronomic translation has become more important in recent years due to the increase in tourism. We live in a society characterized by globalization, in which travel is the order of the day, and traveling to a new place involves trying the local gastronomy.

The tourism market is increasingly recognizing the importance of the emotional sphere of tourism experiences, which has led to the profound transformation of an industry that, although it is part of a service market, is becoming more and more a “market of emotions”. Therefore, in this new trend in the tourism market, the identity and authenticity of a territory are the main attractions for modern tourism. In this regard, the meaning of the word foodies, which refers to those consumers curious about regional gastronomic cultures and eager to learn about the identity of a locality through the palate, is quite illustrative.

The gastronomic resource, unlike other potential elements of the tourist offer, has the advantage of having a tangible, sensory product, capable of communicating the intangible cultural heritage that underlies culinary habits.

Food as an integral part of culture

Food embodies a complex system of symbolic representations resulting from a specific culture, since daily and social customs are best understood through food and the way food is appreciated and prepared. Therefore, gastronomy is a mirror through which we can appreciate the cultural identity of all peoples.

Spain, for example, is recognized as one of the main gastronomic destinations internationally; and, within the Spanish gastronomy, we can appreciate some cultural elements of its idiosyncrasy.

The tapeo defines a culinary custom of Spanish culture consisting of the consumption of tapas, either as an appetizer or as a main course. Tapas are part of our gastronomy and of the collective imagination, but what the tapas culture represents goes beyond the act of eating itself, as it involves a genuine form of social custom. Along the same lines, it is worth mentioning the proliferation and growing success of “tapas routes”, which are increasingly in demand in our country and even abroad.

Translation of gastronomic texts

Translating a series of foods, dishes and beverages from one language to another is no easy task, as customs, society and culture are very important aspects to be taken into account. Translation is a process of intercultural communication, and the transfer of cultural elements is one of the greatest challenges faced by the translator. This is especially visible in the field of gastronomic translation.

The specialization or professionalization of a field brings with it the use of a specific lexicon that makes it possible to identify, characterize and transmit this knowledge to professionals and amateurs. In this respect, the field of gastronomy is characterized by the use of a very specific lexicon which, moreover, can vary greatly depending on the language.

The naming of dishes often involves terms or expressions that are difficult to translate to other cultures. For example, in the case of our gastronomy, how do we translate terms such as “banderilla”, “gamas a la gabardina” or “gilda”? These lexical units, which carry a high cultural content and whose meaning is understood almost exclusively by native speakers of the language, are called culturemes. All these forms are good examples of the close relationship between lexicon and culture.


Gastronomic translation as a specialty: characteristics and resources

Taking into account the type of relationship existing between the two cultures (source and target), the textual genre in which they are inserted, the function and nature of the cultureme in the original text, the characteristics of the addressee and the object of the translation itself, we can affirm that there are no univocal strategies for approaching a gastronomic translation, but rather a multiplicity of solutions and techniques.

Gastronomic translation is usually included in specialized texts of a technical nature, largely due to the specific terminology used. One of the main aspects to be taken into account is the notable presence of foreign words, especially those coming from English (although not exclusively). This is especially noticeable in areas such as confectionery, with widespread terms such as cookies, muffin, panettone, crêpes, etc.

On the other hand, when we speak of gastronomic translation, we immediately think of a certain type of text: a recipe or a menu. However, we can classify gastronomic texts into three main typologies according to the textual typology that predominates in them:

  • Directive texts: these give instructions on procedures, as in the case of recipe books.
  • Rhetorical texts: those fragments of literary works that employ culinary elements, either to embellish the text or to convey a much deeper message within the narrative.
  • Descriptive texts: menus and restaurant menus, where the information must be as clear and concise as possible so that diners can recognize their preferences without having seen the dishes to choose.


Once we have classified our gastronomic text, the translation must be adapted to the textual typology and, therefore, to the communicative intention of the message.

Finally, some of the strategies we can employ in gastronomic translation are:

  • Use of borrowed words, especially those terms that do not need to be translated into the target language because they are universally used.
  • Avoid literal translations and only use them in limited cases.
  • Do not rule out adding a brief description of the dishes to clarify possible doubts of the foreign diner.
  • Rely on linguistic resources and websites of official institutions, such as gastronomy dictionaries.
  • Bear in mind all the extra-linguistic factors involved in the translation process.


If you are interested in the world of gastronomy translation and you need to translate any type of document pertaining to the culinary sector (menus, cards, recipes, brochures…), at FAST.txt we have a team of specialists with extensive experience in this field. Don’t hesitate to contact us!


Carlos Sánchez Luis