Pa amb tomàquet

I’m always up for browsing a restaurant menu, not only because I’m “gastronomically motivated” (as my friend David recently described me,) but because its interesting to see how the names of the dishes are translated.

A case in point is the classic Catalan dish pa amb tomàquet. It consists of bread (ideally toasted pa de pagès) rubbed with mature tomatoes and garlic, drizzled with olive oil, with a dash of salt to taste. Watch and learn:

A literal translation would be “bread with tomato”, but not only does that sounds terrible in English, it lacks descriptive power. See that on a menu and you expect to be presented with an unappetizing, dry hunk of bread sat alongside a tomato.

The most efficient way to accurately describe the dish to an English speaker would probably be via the Italian term “bruschetta”,  which, thanks to the global popularity of Italian cuisine, has practically been imported into English, but, of course, it would be unthinkable to conflate Catalonia’s national dish with its foreign cousin. What is more, the word “bruschetta” also fails to capture the fact pa amb tomàquet is made by squeezing the tomato and rubbing it into the bread, rather than chopping it up and placing it on top as the Italians do.

Menu writers sometimes opt for the prosaic solution of “catalan bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil”, or some other variation which sounds more like a step-by-step recipe than a name. Yawn.

If I had a restaurant,  I would definitely try to have some fun with the translation. I think I’d call the dish “traditional smashed tomato toast”, or something like that. It captures the vigour of the preparation process and, as a bonus, it alliterates, which is always satisfying!

As an aside, the most entertaining translation of pa amb tomàquet that I have actually seen on a menu was a phonetic one in Galicia. Observe:

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