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#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 10: Raclette

I mentioned this week’s challenge would be cheesy, and I don’t think this will disappoint… let’s get ready to raclette!

For the uninitiated, raclette is a Swiss dish which involves eating a whole heap of melted cheese, alongside potatoes, meat, and all sorts of sides. It is also the machine and the type of cheese used to do this.

You do need to have some means to melt the cheese, and a raclette machine along the lines of this one is most commonly used at home.

When looking up recommended quantities of cheese and side dishes, I came across this article by Hervé, which I used as the source text for my translation. What’s more, Hervé himself has kindly provided me with the permission to publish my translation of his webpage (thank you!) – read my English translation of the tips and recipe.

Or read on for my usual comments on the translation and cooking challenges.


When convivialité is not conviviality – difficult words to translate

One word I struggled to translate was convivialité, as in this sentence:

C’est un peu la recette star de l’hiver la raclette, synonyme de convivialité en famille ou entre amis où chacun met la main à la pate.

In this context, the most appropriate definition I found was from CNRTL, which suggested ‘le goût des réunions et des festins.’

Although ‘conviviality’ exists in English, it is more suited to formal contexts, and I didn’t think would work well here. Some potential options include:

  • Friendliness, togetherness

  • Warm, welcoming (+ ‘atmosphere’ or ‘ambience’)

  • Festive, lovely, cheerful (+ ‘atmosphere’ or ‘ambience’)

In the end, I chose to translate this sentence as in the below, but there is definitely room for improvement here:

Raclette is an excellent winter dish, a synonym of togetherness and good times spent with family and friends, where everyone gets to join in.

Translating idioms – when adaptation is necessary

Below are some lovely idiomatic French expressions which appear in this text. I’ve included their word-for-word translation, and some suggested translation (or rather, adaptation) solutions for UK English.

  • Avoir un faible pour (word-for-word: 'to have a weakness for' – in this context, more likely 'to have a penchant / liking / taste for', or 'to be partial to')

  • Mettre la main à la pâte (word-for-word: 'to put your hand in the dough / mix / batter' – options here could be 'to join in / pitch in / muck in / get involved')


Picture showing the raclette machine, cheese, ham and other sides

Disclaimer 1 – this is not my picture! (Thanks Pixabay) Unfortunately I was too busy eating, chatting, and generally being conviviale to remember to take a good shot.

Disclaimer 2 – clearly, not much cooking was involved on my part, just a little bit of prep - but I'm still counting it for the challenge!

I’m a little hesitant to admit this, in fear of any cheese-wielding raclette purist readers, but here goes:

  • we allowed less than the recommended quantity of cheese per person

  • we didn’t eat any meat

  • we 'racletted' (I can use this as a verb, right? Maybe it will catch on) vegan cheese*

In anticipation of any protestations:

  • we avoided (for the most-part) cheese comas, with a large quantity of salad on hand

  • one guest was vegetarian and a number of us are reducing the amount of meat we consume, for environmental reasons

  • one guest was dairy free (admittedly, we should have perhaps chosen something else to eat…), but never fear, the rest of us had unsmoked and plain raclette cheese

*For any that are interested, it was coconut-based vegan cheese, and the coconut flavour was reportedly a bit too strong once melted, so probably not to repeat with that cheese. Maybe one of the cashew-based varieties would be worth a try.

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