language/culturally-specific cribsheets explaining the basics of foreign foods.
October 15, 2009 9:26 AM   Subscribe

The folks over at Evil Mad Scientist Labs made a pretty comprehensive wallet-sized cheat sheet to help the uninitiated navigate Southern Indian menu items. I think it's well done, useful, and quite clever. I'd like to have something similar for all the world's cuisines.

I got no idea where to start with this; I'm quite inept with names for foods--which is precisely why this concept appeals to me as much as it does. I have a forgiving palate, so it's not like I'm needing to avoid anything, but I'd like to be more savvy with what I pick.

I'm not joking about the remedial nature of where I'm starting from, here... f'real. If my momma didn't make it, I don't know the name of it. I almost always love the taste of it, though, so it's time I figured it out.

Can someone point me to other quick, index-card-able summaries that are designed to act as this one is--that is to say, streamlined but reasonably comprehensive, well-arranged, and specific? I feel like I should stress that this is what I feel would be the most useful. A bunch of people giving single factoids (eg. " 'boeuf' is a beef dish in a French restaurant") is probably not the best way to compile this sort of thing.

Western/Eastern Europe, Southern Asian, East Asian, African, North African, Middle Eastern, South American... I want a cheat sheet for every cuisine I might reasonably find in a restaurant in a large U.S. city. Please point me to where this information lives. Many thanks.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
It also struck me that this shares some similarities with a "MetaFilter Projects" type of deal. Anyone who'd like to do that is more than welcome to, of course... I just feel way too inept in this one area to think I'd be able to guide that project in any productive way. I'd do about as well as I would leading a big game safari, I bet.

I do have better-than-average layout skills, though, and I'd be more than happy to reformat any good information that others find. If I can find/make something useful, I'll throw 'em all into a PDF and make it available for anyone interested.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 9:30 AM on October 15, 2009

Depending on how Americanized the food is, travel guidebooks will do a good job of explaining the cuisine in just a few pages.

Examples from Frommer's Greece, which just happens to be the closest one at hand:

souvlaki: shish kebab
keftedes: meatballs
moussaka: eggplant casserole often with minced meat
yemista: tomatoes or green peppers filled with rice and sometimes minced meat
pastitsio: baked pasta
tzatziki: yogurt with cucumber and garlic
taramosalata: fish-roe dip
posted by smackfu at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2009

Seconding smackfu.
Most phrasebooks for different languages have a Food section for help in ordering. Here's an online one for French food for example, and another.
posted by vacapinta at 10:19 AM on October 15, 2009

This is much larger than wallet-sized, but it could help you in the preparation of such a card: The Ethnic Food Lover's Companion, by Eve Zibart. Here is the Google Books preview.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:29 AM on October 15, 2009

I sometimes see this information inset in a box on the menu itself - I don't know if there's a way to find lots of sample menus, but that might be something to look at.

I also have some luck googling "________ menu guide". I got a (briefer than you might be looking for) Ethiopian menu guide that way.

Since you're basically looking for a dictionary, I also tried "ethnic food dictionary" (you might play around with that search a bit.

This site also has some good links to basic glossaries of food terms in various cultures/languages/cuisines. Like this one of Arabic food terms.
posted by clerestory at 1:47 PM on October 15, 2009

Wow, sorry for all the errors in that post.
posted by clerestory at 1:48 PM on October 15, 2009

This would be a really cool project -- and could probably be sold to a Lonely Planet type company. If anyone's up to get started, let me know!
posted by metametababe at 6:13 PM on October 31, 2009

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