Food Words 101: Garen, Gären, (Er)nähren, Gaumenfreude und Genuss

How do you feel about cooking? Love it? Loathe it? Personally, I am not a major fan, but the coronavirus lockdowns have turned us all into hobby chefs. Out of boredom (or dire need), we have picked up those cookbooks or browsed the net in search of something truly yummy (and not too difficult to prepare). Our creations (nicely zhooshed up with vast amounts of image processing software) have flooded the WhatsApp accounts and Insta feeds of our closest friends.


But what about intercultural eating? Have you ever developed a hankering for an appetizing treat advertised online, only to discover the recipe is in a foreign language? Or have you had to shelter in place in a foreign location during the pandemic, with nothing but foreign-language instructions on the backs of food packaging?

How confusing. Not unlike the German terms I’ve selected for you today.

Garen‘ is always a tricky one to translate. It basically means to prepare or cook something until it is done. This could mean to simmer, stew, braise, steam (dampfgaren) or even boil until soft – depending on the type of dish you’re preparing.

But beware of the two little dots on top (called an Umlaut): ‘gären‘ is another kettle of fish (excuse the pun) altogether. This one, believe it or not, means to ferment or brew.

And don’t even get me started on the difference between ‘nähren‘ und ‘ernähren‘. German verbs often carry these funny little prefixes – some of them stay put, but others have the unsettling tendency to fall off when conjugated and show up at the end of the sentence again. It’s like playing hide and seek. And they can alter the meaning, too – slightly or substantially. ‘Nähren‘ for instance, is closer to ‘nurture, nourish’, while ‘ernähren‘ means to feed. Not so bad, you think? Then let me throw another one at you:

halten (stop, hold, keep, retain) – aufhalten (stay, suspend, impede, delay) – abhalten (detain, hold) – erhalten (get, receive, obtain) – enthalten (contain, include, but also abstain!) – verhalten (act, behave, conduct oneself) – zuhalten (keep smth. closed). Good luck figuring out which prefixes remain attached to the verb and which prefer to separate!…

At any rate, I hope this linguistic parcour hasn’t spoiled your appetite. Whether you prefer sausage and beer or ‘Kafee und Kuchen‘, a nice glass of wine or one of unfermented grape juice (it’s a… must!), this season is full of culinary delights, ‘Genussand ‘Gaumenfreude!’

And if you have any funny food-related experiences, hilarious translations of foreign-language menu items or fascinating kitchen terminology in your language, YourTranscreator would like to hear from you!

#germantranslation #transcreation #localization #language #interculturalcommunication #covid-19