For some perverse reason I am rather enjoying the horse meat scandal in the UK, although there is now even talk that donkeys may have been involved too. And let’s not rule out zebras!
I think part of the reason for my enjoyment is that, despite all our bureaucracies, our rules and regulations, despite all the pompous ministers and officials here and there proclaiming that they all adhere to the most stringent standards, it only takes a bit of mischief from a man with a horse (or a donkey) to throw the whole system into chaos. It’s always entertaining to watch the politicians scramble to save their reputations. Everyone is blaming everybody else. In the meantime the old English expression “horses for courses” has been given an entirely new meaning.
I also find it interesting that people in England who think they are eating Irish beef may in fact be eating horse meat from a factory in France or Luxembourg supplied by a possibly dodgy Cypriot trader who sourced his meat from a possibly dodgy abattoir in Romania. Just look at those supply chains! So many middle men! Those poor cows/horses/donkeys do get shunted around. I am surprised the meat is still edible by the time it lands on your plate. Anyway, that’s globalisation for you.
It is strange people will quite happily eat meat from one animal but be repelled by the thought of another. I don’t know if it is still available now but in the revolving restaurant up in the Sydney tower you used be able to sample camel meat as well as ostrich/ emu and kangaroo. I seem to remember that camel meat was very greasy and left a film of oil on your lips and inside your mouth that was rather difficult to get rid of. Or maybe that was the emu. Dog meat is eaten in some parts of the world, but I’ve never tried it, nor bull calf’s testicles, which I believe are regarded as a delicacy in certain parts of the world. I quite like snails and have eaten crocodile as an entree in a restaurant (a French one!) in Zimbabwe. I don’t have any qualms about eating crocodile as I know the beast would have no qualms about eating me.
Kangaroo meat is an issue in Australia. The creatures are regarded as a pest and hundreds or thousands have to be shot each year. The meat is meant to be lean and healthy, less fatty than beef, and the argument is we might as well make use of the resource (that is, eat the damned things) since they are going to be culled anyway. So there has been a campaign to promote kangaroo meat to Australian consumers. I tried it in a restaurant when I first came to Australia in the early 1990s and it was OK, a bit like rare roast beef (chefs say it is best cooked rare or medium rare). They started to package it in our supermarkets. It is darker than most other meats. I bought some for a barbecue and pretended to the guests that it was beef. But while I was eating it (I had to play along with the joke) the thought of it being kangaroo, and the fact that I had seen it raw in the packet, made me feel queasy. I wanted to throw up. This was unusual because food rarely puts me off! When I told the guests what it really was they admitted they had found the “beef” rather odd. But the joke was on me.
I guess deep down most of us have issues with animal slaughter though we try to keep it out of our minds, and we should try to be more vegetarian. Would it matter so much if Irish potatoes turned out to be Romanian carrots? Je ne crois pas, I don’t believe so.
So, let’s look at some vocabulary…. If you go into a restaurant in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy or Romania I guess you would want to be sure of what you are eating.
In French, the menu is le menu. Meat is viande, a cow is une vache, a horse is un cheval, a donkey is un âne, a camel is un chameau and a kangaroo is un kangourou. Beef is le boeuf, but if you want to say a man is beefy you can say he is costaud, a steak is un bifteck, and gagner son bifteck means to earn one’s living. Horse meat is la viande de cheval, a potato is une pomme de terre (an apple of the earth) and a carrot is une carrotte. An abattoir is un abattoir and to slaughter is abattre, to cook is cuire, but to cook the books (to fake, fix or rig) is truquer. To eat is manger, a big eater is un gros mangeur if it’s a man and une grosse mangeuse if it is a woman. A scandal is un scandale, it’s scandalous! is c’est scandaleux!, mischief is l’espièglerie, a joke is une blague and to exclaim you’re joking! is sans blague! Other words are une plaisanterie or, if it is a trick, un tour. To fool someone is duper or tromper quelqu’un. A fool is un imbécile, and to play the fool is faire l’imbécile. A joker is un plaisantin.
In Portuguese, the menu is o menu or a ementa. Meat is carne (that’s easy to remember, think of words such as carnivore or carnage in English), and the expression nem carne nem peixe (literally, neither meat nor fish) means neither one thing or the other. A cow is uma vaca, a horse is um cavalo, a donkey is um burro, and to be burro com uma porta is to be very stupid (literally, stupid as a door). Ir de cavalo para burro means to be worse off or go into a poorer situation. A camel is um camelo and a kangaroo is um canguru. Beef is carne de vaca, a steak is um bife (in Portuguese-speaking snack bars you can ask for a bifana, which is a steak sandwich or roll, usually very tasty). Estar feito ao bife means to be in a difficult situation. Horse meat is carne de cavalo, a potato is uma batata and a carrot is uma cenoura. An abattoir is um matadouro (matar means to kill, and of course it is related to the word matador) and to slaughter is abater, to cook is cozinhar, and to eat is comer. A scandal is um escândalo, it’s scandalous! is é escandaloso, mischief is o traquinagem or a travessura, a joke is uma piada or uma brincadeira, and to fool someone is enganar alguém. A fool is um tolo and a joker is um brincalhão.
My Spanish, Italian and Romanian dictionaries are not as comprehensive and don’t give any or many expressions, proverbs or idioms related to these words. This is a pity because those are the sorts of things that make a language really interesting and give you insights into a people’s way of thinking, if you know what I mean. I guess I will upgrade my dictionaries in time. I am also still getting my head around the basic grammar of these languages (which unlike French and Portuguese are all new to me) so if anyone spots any mistakes please alert me and I will correct them. Anyway, this is what I could find for now:
In Spanish, a menu is un menú. Meat is la carne, a cow is una vaca, a horse is un caballo, a donkey is un burro, a camel is un camello and a kangaroo is un canguro. Beef is carne de vaca, a steak is un filete or un bistec, horse meat is carne de caballo, a potato is una patata and a carrot is una zanahoria. An abattoir is un matadero and slaughter as a verb is matar but as a noun it is matanza, to cook is cocinar, and to eat is comer. A scandal is un escándalo, it’s scandalous! is es escandaloso! Mischief is travesuras or diabluras (both plural), a joke or funny story is un chiste (think of jest in English) while a practical joke is una broma and to fool someone is engañar a alguien. A fool is un tonto or una tonta, while tonto also means foolish. A joker is un or una bromista.
In Italian, a menu is un menù. Meat is also carne, a cow is una mucca or una vacca, a horse is un cavallo, a donkey is un asino or un somaro, a camel is un cammello and a kangaroo is un canguro. Beef is carne di manzo or carne di mucca (manzo is a steer) a steak is una bistecca, horse meat is carne di cavallo, a potato is una patata and a carrot is una carota. An abattoir is un mattatoio and to slaughter is macellare, to cook is cucinare or cuocere, and to eat is mangiare. A scandal is uno scandalo, it’s scandalous! is è scandaloso!, mischief is una birichinata or (in the sense of naughtiness) birichineria, a joke is uno scherzo, if it is a funny story it is una barzelletta. To fool someone is ingannare. A fool is uno sciocco or una sciocca. A joker is un jolly.
In Romanian, a menu is un meniu. Meat is carne, a cow is o vacă , a horse is un cal, a donkey is un măgar, a camel is o cămilă and a kangaroo is un cangur. Beef is carne de vacă, a steak or roast is o friptura, horse meat is carne de cal, a potato is un cartof and a carrot is un morcov. An abattoir is un abator and to slaughter is sacrificare or măcelar (butcher), to cook is a găti, and to eat is a mânca. A scandal is un scandal, it’s scandalous! is e scandalos!, a joke is o glumă and to joke is a glumi. A fool is un neghiob which can be used as an adjective to mean foolish, and to fool is a păcăli. to fool someone is a păcăli pe cineva. A fool is un prost and a joker is un joker or un clovn (clown).
Well, that is a lot to digest. I’m sure in a future post we’ll be discussing pork meat, lamb chop and chicken nugget scandals. In the meantime enjoy watching politicians having to eat their words…. engolir suas palavras in Portuguese, engolir meaning to swallow.
Até a próxima vez… until next time … tchau… cheers
- Horse-Meat? Donkey-Meat? Meat…think about! (spiritandanimal.wordpress.com)
- Horsemeat scandal: Chicken and pork must be tested next, says head of FSA (dailymail.co.uk)