#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 25: The ultimate seafood chowder
When making my vegetable soup a few weeks’ ago, I came across the dish Chaudrée from France’s Atlantic Coast, and was keen to try it out. Unwittingly, I managed to choose this Canadian recipe for 'The ultimate seafood chowder' which, in retrospect, seems to be more like a New England style chowder than what I had intended. But this led to some interesting discoveries – I noticed a few differences in terms of style between this and the numerous other French recipes I’ve translated this far. And, perhaps most importantly, it was delicious!
Regional variants and style
I first began to suspect this recipe wasn’t from France when translating the ingredients list.
Hexagon* recipes tend to include ingredient preparation (i.e. ‘dice the onion’) as part of the method, or sometimes, not at all, and the details tend to be fairly brief. In contrast, this recipe lists how they should be prepared within the ingredients list, i.e. ‘1 onion, diced.’ This style is often adopted in English** recipes.
Similarly, as well as metric measurements, imperial measurements were also provided. Hexagon recipes, meanwhile, tend to stick solely to metric.
Regional variants and terminology
The following terms appeared in the recipe which I haven’t seen in a Hexagon recipe before:
Cuillère à thé (teaspoon)
Hexagon recipes use cuillère à café (coffee spoon) – although it’s the same measure.
This one was new for me. A simple search led me to ‘scallop’, which I’ve normally known as Coquille Saint Jacques. But, delve a little deeper and it’s not quite so simple as a regional variation. In fact, as this article in Marie Claire explains, it appears that pétoncle refers to a mollusc in the same family as, yet distinct from, the coquille saint Jacques.
Meanwhile, the Larousse gastronomique (LG) explains that there are hundreds of different species of ‘scallops’. If I’ve understood correctly, ‘scallop’ is a more general term which covers both of the French terms above. The LG lists ‘King scallops’ as the English equivalent for coquille saint Jacques. I haven’t tracked down the technical equivalent for pétoncle just yet.
Regardless, however, I think that the average English-speaking cook is probably more familiar with the less scientific, everyday term ‘scallop’. They’re also likely to swap in seafood and fish which is found locally to them, so the differentiation between the different types of scallops would be unnecessary. Given this, I decided just to use ‘scallop’ in my translation.
My recipe says to serve craquelins with the chowder. I knew craquelin as a Belgian sweet yeasted bread, similar to brioche. I’d also heard the term used on Bake Off to refer to a crispy topping added to choux buns (more details on this and why it is used, in French).
But clearly my recipe wasn’t referring to either of these. From looking at the supermarket side of the website, it seemed clear that craquelins in Canada are savoury ‘crackers.’ I can’t say I’ve ever eaten crackers alongside soup – maybe this is common in North America? Since it’s such a hearty soup, I can see that bread might be too filling.
Summary of regional differences
Of course, this is just one recipe, and I can hardly draw wide-sweeping generalisations about the differences between Hexagon and French Canadian recipes. In fact, I don't actually know whether this recipe was originally written in English or French, as I've just discovered that it's also available in English on the site as well. But it's been interesting that there were discernible differences.
*I’m using ‘English’ in the sense of the English language as a whole, rather than pertaining just to England.
**I’m going to refer to recipes from France as ‘Hexagon’ throughout this post, to avoid confusion.
As is my wont, I substituted several ingredients for what I had to hand, or what I could get locally. I used sweet potato rather than potato, a ‘fish pie mix’ of frozen fish rather than the specified fresh fish and seafood, added leek, and topped with spring onions rather than chives. All of these substitutions made for a less fancy soup, so I’m not sure you could call what I cooked ‘The ultimate seafood chowder.’ Nonetheless, the cooking itself was simple and stress-free, and it was lovely hearty dish.
Next week is the half-way point of this year-long challenge. And I thought I’d do something a little different. Having used so many different online and print recipe books and websites, both as part of this challenge, and in my day-to-day life, I have seen how much the styles and formats differ, and have my own preferences. So I’m planning to write about the elements that makes, to my mind, the ultimate cookbook. Have ideas? Feel free to contribute in the comments below, or get in touch.
As for my next recipe, now I’m feeling inspired to make Belgian Craquelin, or maybe Cramique… Keep your eyes peeled.