David Recine

Listening Exercise: Informal Speech in a Cooking TV Show

In a recent post, I showed you how to practice your English listening skills with recipes. The post included some video clips from cooking shows. Since then, a student of mine has pointed out that English language cooking shows can be challenging. They have a lot of informal speech and can be heavy in phrasal verbs and specialized cooking vocabulary.

Because of this, cooking shows really are a great way to expand your vocabulary in spoken English—and learn some new cooking terms too! Today, we’re going to watch a clip from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, a popular American cooking show. The video link will be followed by a transcript that includes notes on language that ESL students may find challenging.



Cooking Tuscan Potato Cakes with David Rocco


TRANSCRIPT (with notes for English learners in bold)

Now picnic food, party food—it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. First thing I’m gonna do is a recipe called gateau di patate, which means potato cake. Everyone loves potatoes. OK, start off with some pancetta. What I love about Italian pancetta is when you cook it up the fat renders down, and gives loads of flavor to the dish. So everything into a hot pan.

At the beginning of this paragraph “now” is being used as a spoken verbal pause and not as a preposition of time. David uses “now” in this way several times in the video.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

renders down= liquefies, melts (specifically used to describe the heating of fatty materials)

And “gives” in this context means “releases or adds”.

Next, some onion. So what I’m doing is creating a flavor base here. Frying up the onion and pancetta together. A rough chop. And throwing it in with the pancetta. OK, I’m going to let that brown, and what I’m gonna do now is go to my potatoes. And these are regular potatoes. They’ve cooled down.
And now I can easily work with them and peel the skins back. I want the potatoes to be evenly mashed. You need one egg. And the egg helps bind everything together. Some salt, and some black pepper. My pancetta and onions are looking nice and brown and crisp. Throw in everything, oil and onions right in. Now you want the oil, because that’s where all the good flavor is.

to bind everything together= to combine all things into one solid form

“You want” is being used as a way of recommending or suggesting something, similar to “You should.”

“You want the oil, because that’s where all the good flavor is” means that David recommends using oil to give the food a good taste.

“right in”= placed inside something quickly and immediately

Sometimes I call this potato cake my “clean out the fridge” potato cake. I search for ingredients that have kind of seen better days. And in this case my cheese. Sometimes I’m a bit lazy when it comes to properly wrapping my cheeses. And this is pecorino, this is a bit moldy. Now people might think (groan) just throw it out. But just scrape it off and throw it in the potato cake. Now you don’t want to throw this out–I mean this is good cheese still. Now, the parmigiano, same thing, little chunks. Next, some freshly grated parmigiano, this will help bind everything together.

By saying it’s a “clean out the fridge” potato cake, he means that he takes many old things out of his fridge and puts them into the potato cake. The ingredients will include old food from the fridge that’s almost rotten and no longer good.

seen better days= was in better condition in the past

to throw out= to put in the garbage can

And in this context, “just scrape it off” means to peel away the mold that’s growing on the outside of the cheese.

A little bit of olive oil. Give it a good mix. Mmm, you can really smell the pancetta, all the cheese. Now, I love this potato cake and most do, because it’s a cross between mashed potatoes and baked potatoes with some of your favorite cheeses and of course pancetta. And growing up, we used to have this all the time at family picnics. Now just get a regular baking dish and put everything in. Just smooth it out. Lastly, some bread crumbs right on top and this forms a beautiful crust when it gets baked in the oven. Not a bad potato cake.

In this context, “and most do” means “most other people do the same thing that I do.”

a cross between= a combination of

to smooth out= to make the surface or texture of something free of lumps, wrinkles, inconsistencies, or imperfections



  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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