food & drink

False friends

Anyone eager to learn Spanish should be careful of word traps. These 'false friends' can produce laughter, but also discomfort, and many readers will know that constipado means a cold, not what it sounds like in English, and efectivo and americano are in similar categories (the first referring to cash and the second to a jacket.)

But a word like 'invite' means exactly what it says on the tin. If you are invited to have lunch in a restaurant, you are a guest and do not have to pay. The easiest mistake someone can make is to invite another person without any intention of paying for them.

I went on a trip the other day to eat wild duck in a country venta. One of the group had 'invited' a Spanish friend, so when the time came to pay the bill, the Spanish friend quite innocently commented that he was 'invited' so clearly did not need to pay, causing embarrassment. Such unintended misunderstandings can strain relationships.

Whether you are a wine lover or writer, bodegas are usually very welcoming, and if you asks for a visit, most of the time an invitation will be forthcoming. A couple of hours touring the installations and a few glasses in the tasting room come at almost zero cost to the winery and goes down as promotional expenditure (but unless you are a proven customer for the wine, don't expect to get taken out for lunch.)

The catch of course is you have to get there, and even for a relatively nearby wine region, a one-night hotel stay and a meal will usually be involved, apart from travel costs. And before you ask, make sure that visits have not been contracted out commercially to a specialist organisation - whose only aim is to make money.