Trying to find a decent place to eat in Paris is only half the battle. Then you have to figure out what’s on the menu. Even when you’re fluent in French it’s not always easy to understand exactly what to expect in a dish when you order, even if you’re sure it’s “something with duck and potatoes” or “a white fish with vegetables.” Menus translated into English by well-meaning establishments often provide some good laughs, if not appetizing or even accurate descriptions. “Burnt cream” for crème brûlée is one thing, but translating a crottin de chèvre salad as a “goat turd salad” might dissuade most diners.
Bon Appétit is the latest English-French food dictionary from Gourmet Guides destined to help decipher French menus: “The purpose of this small volume is to aid the memory, to describe what gastronomic delight, or the opposite, is awaiting those who might order that otherwise unknown. It is also intended to help the adventurous, who seek out new or unusual dishes, to make the most of whatever is on offer. And it aims to avoid those sometimes comical translations often to be found even in the finest establishments.” They sent me a copy of the pocket booklet to check out, and I’ve found it quite handy and easy to carry in a small purse. The print guide is currently on sale for €3.25 (usually €4.99) through the Gourmet Guides website. If you have an iPhone there’s also an app in iTunes for 99 centimes.