A few weeks ago, our two oldest kids came home from college for March Break. It was just like old times, with all five of us at dinner. I served a fine Italian meal: angel hair pasta with Ragu sauce from a jar. This is one of my ‘emergency’ meals, served when
(a) I can’t think of what else to make, or
(b) I am in a hurry because I have to go on a trip out of town the next day,
either of which constitute a Common Household meal emergency. In this case, both (a) and (b) applied. Here is the conversation that ensued.
Husband: This angel hair is like Ramen noodles, only without the flavor packet.
(With this comment, my husband probably intended to criticize the meal. I considered it a compliment. I may use sauce from a jar, but I draw the line at using flavor packets.)
Older Daughter: You know, “flavor packet” would be incomprehensible to somebody from the 1920s.
Me: Or to the French, at any time in history.
Son: How do you even say “flavor packet” in French?
(Despite the fact that I was a French major in college, at that moment I could not come up with a French equivalent for either “flavor” or “packet.”)
Me: Well, the French have flavor, but not in packets.
Husband: Maybe you call it a “flavor pouch” in French. “Sac de flaveur!”
(He said this with a vaguely French-like wave of the arms.)
Me: “Sac” means “bag.”
(Anyone can easily remember this because in middle school French class we all learned that “cul de sac” means “ass of bag.” Aren’t we glad we are not in middle school any more?)
Older Daughter: But bags are for Cheetos. “Sac de Cheetos!”
Son: Their advertising slogan is “Dangerously Cheesy.”
Older Daughter, drawing on 6 years of Spanish classes: Peligrosamente Quesamente!
Younger Daughter: I wonder how you would say that in Latin.
* * * * * * *
Later thought led me to conclude that a direct translation of “flavor packet” into French might be “paquet de goût” (pronounced ‘pah-KAY deh GOO’). That sounds an awful lot like “packet of goo,” which confirms to me that the French have too much culinary intelligence to need to refer to flavor packets at all. Paquet de goo is what you get when you open a can of cream of mushroom soup, another of my husband’s favorites. I’ll bet the French would not recognize that stuff in the can as cream of mushroom soup.
How would you say "flavor packet" in your native language?