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Buying picnic supplies - quantity terminology?

Has this happened to you [it has to me]: you've found the local popular market that meets the 'not too touristy' criterion that we want in our silly internal contest between tourist and traveler but now you feel a bit of an oaf rather than a sophisticated traveler because you can't clearly ask for what you want, holding up the flow for both seller and regular customers?

In a bar in Spain I know that 'tapa' is snack size and 'racion' is a full/large meal portion so learning the term 'media-racion' is a real win, as is the term 'la mitad' when you want a half-slice of something. Similarly with wine, if a bottle is too much and a glass too little, then hurray for a quarter liter or half liter.

What are the terms used in markets for picnic-size portions and amounts of the stuff you're buying to put together a picnic?

RS TV episodes show him ordering an 'etto' or 'etta' of cheese, for instance -- 100 grams is a decent Italian cheese sandwich, just under a 1/4 pound. But what if I'm not in Italy, or I'm not ordering cheese? I want us to share the right terms for the right amounts in markets where you like to travel in Europe. TIA.

Posted by
3021 posts

Etto is simply short for hecto, the SI prefix for 100. So an "etto" is 100 g, no matter if you're buying cheese, salami or fruit. It is well used in Sweden as well, spelled hekto.

Posted by
27413 posts

you can always ask for a specific number of grams, or a specific number of slices of whatever, in whichever country

Posted by
1834 posts

Let me also expand this to cooking terminology, too -- like in American English we have terms like 'handful' 'smidgen' 'dash' and British English has 'a spot' or 'a dram' all the way to 'a passel' . What are the equivalent terms in European parlances?
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Posted by
7443 posts

I successfully show the amount I want, size between thumb to pointer finger. It has worked perfectly for me.

Posted by
7443 posts

I successfully show the amount I want, size between thumb to pointer finger. It has worked perfectly for me.
Or use Google translate.

Posted by
5493 posts

Knowing the local terminology and lingo is certainly an advantage, but like Suki, gesturing with a smaller or bigger space between index finger and thumb has been pretty successful. That’s when you’re standing in front of the person doing the slicing, or the scooping.

A big-mustachioed cheese vendor at the curbside market in Hania on Crete, 2 years ago, was really disappointed that I couldn’t take an entire small wheel of cheese. He was a genuinely nice fellow, and after some haggling, agreed to slice off less than a half a wheel. It was our last day, and we just couldn’t eat more than that. He didn’t have a scale, and nothing was pre-wrapped. Wonder whether he had a tough time selling the rest of that wheel? Maybe it got used for samples to would-be buyers.

Even at home, at a deli or seafood counter, I’ll ask for a specific amount, and they measure out an estimate. If it’s way too little or too much, which happens frequently, I usually say they need to add more, or cut some off. Portioning is definitely an art.

Posted by
3048 posts

I’ve made some big boo boos in the past, usually involving cheese. We left a sizable part of a wheel behind in a hotel room in Verona when I had just wanted a little wedge. Quickly learned to hold up thumb and index finger to reconfirm if I don’t think I’ve asked correctly.

In Germany when we are at the meat and/or cheese counter, I play it safe and ask for zwei stuck bitte (two pieces please) and hold up the correct two fingers, thumb and index, to indicate the number two.