Those of you who live in the UK might have already seen on TV or in a bookshop Jamie Oliver’s latest work, “Comfort food”. As an avid fan of him, I am following the series on Channel Four and had the chance to flick through the book’s pages at my local book shop. As all of Jamie’s works, it is well presented, with nice paper and beautiful pictures and graphics; according to the reviews, the recipes appear to be easy to replicate as they are very accurate in their description. It is proving to be a hit, as it is in the book chart top 10, and I am sure it will be very popular in Italy where this chef is very appreciated, but I am very curious to see how will it be launched on the Italian market, as I think the translation of this cookbook is quite problematic.
The troubles for the translator start with the title “Jamie’s Comfort Food”. As per Merriam Webster’s definition, comfort food is “food that is satisfying because it is prepared in a simple or traditional way and reminds you of home, family, or friends“. According to Oxford’s dictionary, it is “Food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking“. The term “comfort food” was coined in the US in the ’70, probably to serve the marketing purposes of the food industry. The problem is, there is not even a proper translation for “comfort food” in Italian: sometimes you will find this expression left in English, some other times it’s translated as “cibo di conforto/di consolazione”, but to me they sound like a calque from the original and do not mean much in the target language.
I would probably translate comfort food as “coccola alimentare”, a cosy dish that reminds me of when I was a child, a warm, fuzzy evocation of family gatherings, Christmases and birthdays. Each one of us has a different comfort food, something that cheers us up and soothes the soul, and I am sure everyone’s comfort foods are linked to their background and past.
But I am confident no Italian would mention a Shepherd’s pie or a Pavlova as their comfort food- most of the non-foodies would not even know what they are! Italians might think of such dishes are delicious, or a novelty or something they would love to try, but they would not have any emotional attachment or any memory related to these dishes. They are classics of the British cuisine (Pavlova is actually Australian but at least is a Commonwealth treat!) and pretty much every Brit could relate to them; Chicken Tikka Masala is a British twist on Indian cuisine and very common in the UK, but Italians would be very puzzled to find its recipe on a book that claims to be about home cooking. Moreover, Italians are famous for being very conservative about food- nobody cooks like your mom or you nan, and spins on national treasures are absolutely not welcome… as demonstrated in another Jamie’s book, it is almost impossible to make an Italian try something that’s a far call from “how it should be”.
The translation of such an “innocent” recipe collection, therefore, proves to be a real challenge, both terminology and concept wise. In the Italian version, I the recipes will work and the look will be just as nice as the original’s, but the concept of this book, the idea of bringing you memories through food might as well be lost in translation or completely re-shaped.
I look forward to see how this book will be brought into the Italian market and how it will be received. In the meantime, I’ll love to hear about your idea of comfort food and any possible translation!
Heading Picture: Jadawin42 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jadawin42/)