February 13, 2012

Goat dressed as mutton dressed as lamb

Some day I'll write an essay about misnaming in Indian English: the many tangled reasons which lead people in this country to use the word swan for a goose, autumn for the rainy season, and so on.  Meanwhile, here's food critic Vir Sanghvi on why mutton stands for goat meat in Indian restaurant menus.
Just as every MP begins his or her career with a lie – by saying that total electoral expenditure was under the limit – so every chef and restaurant manager who writes a menu usually starts out with a lie of his or her own. The lie consists of a description of the red meat that is used in the kitchen. Often, the menu will simply say ‘mutton’. This is a term widely used in the culinary world to describe meat from a sheep. The term ‘lamb’ is restricted to young sheep. If the meat comes from an older animal then ‘mutton’ is used. It is the sort of distinction embodied by the phrase ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, commonly employed to describe older women who try and dress young. 
The problem, of course, is that the kitchen does not use mutton, no matter what it says on the menu. The chances are that the chef is using goat, a meat for which the term mutton is never used outside of India. Some chefs and menu writers go further with their evasions. In the descriptive line below such menu staples as seekh kebab and raan, they will use lamb instead of goat. So, a seekh kebab will be described as ‘minced lamb cooked on a skewer in the tandoor’ and a raan as ‘leg of lamb’.
The HT Brunch article can be found here

4 comments:

maxqnz said...

Is there a reason for this practice? Here in NZ desi restaurants do label dishes containing goat, since they can charge more for it.

R Devraj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R Devraj said...

It's the same reason English-educated Indians refer to geese as swans - they choose terms they perceive as refined over more accurate, but less genteel words. Or rather, the choice was made several decades ago, because by now, many Indians believe that the goat meat they eat is also called mutton in English. They may not really believe you if you point out this is a misnomer.

R Devraj said...

It's the same reason English-educated Indians refer to geese as swans - they choose terms they perceive as refined over more accurate, but less genteel words. Or rather, the choice was made several decades ago, because by now, many Indians believe that the goat meat they eat is also called mutton in English. They may not really believe you if you point out this is a misnomer.