Suzanne Wenz loved one meal in Barcelona so much that she took the menu home with her. It wasn’t so much for the food as it was for the delightfully comedic, Catalan-meets-English listings. “It included a delicious Attack of Chick Peas and for dessert, Strawberries & Scum,” says the executive from Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza. “Of course we had to order it, and I kept the menu as a little souvenir. I always appreciate the effort of a small restaurant to translate their menu into English.”
No doubt, one of the best ways to experience a culture when you’re traveling is to eat in the mom-and-pop, hole-in-wall restaurants, where you can be served the most authentic local cuisine—as well as some of the funniest, most charming, or downright confusing culinary descriptions. Thanks to the well-meaning but non-English-speaking menu scribe, “crab” can easily become “crap,” or “deviled” eggs may be rendered “demonic.” And that advertised “dog menu”…is it a listing of items that a local canine might enjoy for supper, or suppers created using local canines?
What’s a confused diner to do? Perhaps as no surprise, your smartphone can offer some help: the app Word Lens uses your phone’s camera as a scanner to translate French, Spanish, or Italian into English.
Granted, plenty of mangled menus are written by and for English speakers, while other menu problems come from idioms that just don’t translate. While in France, Maryland-based travel writer Judy Colbert thought she was playing it safe to order an American Sandwich, only to learn that it was raw hamburger meat.
And in Turkey recently, New York public relations exec Sherry Smith was puzzled to see Salmon Fog on the menu. She wondered if they meant smoked salmon, she says. “But apparently şiş—pronounced ‘shish’—also means ‘fog’ in Turkish—so it was simply salmon shish kebab.”
There was one another menu item that baffled her too: “Fish Intestine Casserole—I hope that was a mistranslation.”
We’ve rounded up some of the funniest menu mistakes photographed around the world. See for yourself, and if you’ve come across any in your travels, upload the photos to our community and let us in on the joke.