Speaking in moo
My mother never taught me how to cook, which was an unfortunate oversight on her part. As a result, I approached my impending marriage with some trepidation. You see, like all good (translate "intimidating") mothers-in-law-to-be, mine was an excellent cook. I feared that my new husband would expect the same degree of expertise from me. All I knew was, that at the moment, I could barely make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
As newlyweds, we spent the first few months of our marriage in Scotland, where my husband was studying. This lovely country was, to our young minds, as foreign as The Land of Oz. The inhabitants spoke a peculiar brand of the King's English, a brogue, actually, which was often unrecognizable to our American ears. I remember standing at a bus stop once when a group of young men asked us a question. The problem was, it sounded like they said "Aye-ya ga th ti?" Having replied with various forms of "What?", "Huh?" and "Pardon me?" we gave up. Eventually one of the boys, who looked at us as though we were one cornflake short of a box, took off his watch and held it before our eyes. Aha! Have you got the time!
As it happened, at that time in Scotland there were no supermarkets as we know them. There was the butcher, the fishmonger and the canned goods store. One fateful day, I took courage in hand and visited my local butcher. Since, as was usually the case, we seemed to have a mutual communication problem, I merely pointed to some likely-looking steaks and intoned "Two steaks, please." Suddenly, a Spanish lady next to me pulled at my sleeve. In her heavily accented English, she said "Must-say-moo!" I inquired as to why that should be, but her grasp of English was too limited to allow her to explain. She did seem quite agitated, and I wondered why. I finally concluded that she was sadly unbalanced and hastened from the shop, steaks in hand.
Dinner loomed large on my horizon. It was to be my first gourmet meal. I had a lot on the line, and I suddenly saw my mother-in-law's disapproving image appear before my eyes. So after much consideration, I decided on a Julia Child pepper steak recipe and spent hours in preparation and in heady anticipation of how surprised and pleased my new husband would be. I paid no attention to the strange odor emanating from the steaks.
When my unsuspecting spouse sat down to his meal that evening, he was indeed surprised. What he bit into was a well-aged piece of mutton, a meat known for its "distinctive" flavor. The older the meat is, the more prominent the flavor becomes. By our own calculations, this mutton was 102 years old.
I later found that in our particular part of Scotland, the word steak was interchangeable with the word mutton and that one had to specify if one wanted beefsteak. That was what the lady in the butcher shop was trying to tell me.