Help Me Out Here
By Tom // Posted 23 March, 2011 in: Minneapolis, Restaurants
As I was biking through downtown Minneapolis on my way home from work yesterday, I noticed the new exterior at Solera, a tapas restaurant that I have enjoyed many times. I didn’t enjoy the new look. I find the Spanish flag awnings are a bit garish — not to mention nationalistic — compared with the formerly quiet, Gaudí inspired blue and tile. Far more offensive, however, are the new banners hanging vertically down the side of the building that proudly proclaim Solera to be the “Cucina de España”. If you’re not shaking your head incredulously right now, I should explain that “cucina” is the Italian word for kitchen; the word in Spanish is “cocina”. In addition to “kitchen”, cocina refers to cuisine, home cooking and cookery — all things to which Solera would presumably like to refer.
When I first saw this I was sure it was just a printer error. Maybe nobody at the sign company spoke Spanish and maybe the sign was hung in a hurry without checking with anyone at the restaurant. An expensive error, to be sure, but one that would be corrected quickly. I even pulled off the road to try to take a photo of the banners, so sure was I that they would be taken down and replaced with corrected versions before anyone noticed (my iPhone camera, unfortunately, failed to work — but that’s another post).
But then I checked Solera’s website. Here’ a screenshot from the top of the page:
And the page footer:
Apparently, Solera is embracing the “cucina” thing wholeheartedly.
At this point I started to question my own knowledge of Spanish. Maybe this was just a word I wasn’t familiar with — I checked dictionaries and the incomparable wordreference.com, but I couldn’t find anything. Maybe it was Catalan? No — that would be “cuina”. I even called a Spanish professor, but she just confirmed that cucina was not a Spanish word.
Was Solera going for some kind of Italian-Spanish fusion concept, and expressing this through the fusion of the languages in their tagline? Not according to the first sentence on their homepage:
Featuring an evocative menu, authentically embracing the cuisine of Spain, Solera offers an unparalleled experience for social dining in a vibrant, Spanish-influenced atmosphere.
Embracing the cuisine of Spain, sure, but not the language. The menu is pure Spain.
This is even more confusing since the new chef at Solera, Jorge Guzman, is a native of Mexico City, and I doubt he’s the only member of the kitchen staff who speaks Spanish. If the marketing people had bothered to check with Guzman one would think this error might have been avoided.
The idea of marketing raises the possibility that this is all just a cynical ploy for attention, for nitpicking blog coverage like you’re currently reading. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and seeing these banners certainly made me stop, and here I am writing this post, playing into their manipulative hands. Mission accomplished. But does this lead me to take Solera seriously as a place to celebrate and enjoy the culture of Spain? Pues, no.
I’m not sure why I’ve become so obsessed, but I’ve been thinking about it since last night and I just can’t make sense of it. If it’s an error, it’s a huge and repeated error that speaks badly of the organization, especially after its recent management change. If it’s intentional, I have yet to come up with a plausible theory for what they were going for. Am I just linguistically ignorant? Can you help me out here?