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Stinco: Lost in Translation!

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July 28, 2014 / Italian / By
Anna

Most Italian restaurants catering to the foreign as well as local Italian trade offer an English menu as well as Italian. Sometimes, when you have both languages, it can be illuminating and amusing to compare and note just what gets lost in translation.

In Italian, the dishes sound like a succession of operatic arias; often the English versions, created with just a dictionary, or even worse, Google Translate, leave you wondering how anyone might be brave enough to order. Coratella di Agnello con Cuore, Pulmone e Fegato (good enough to sing, let alone order and eat) comes up in the English version as “Lamb’s Offal with Heart, Lungs and Liver” – and I’ve seen far too many visitors to Umbria wrinkle their noses in disgust and move on to something “safer” like ravioli, or gnocchi al sagrantino.

What they are missing, of course, is an utterly delicious traditional Italian stew infused with herbs and cooked to smell as good as it looks. As coratella, it’s an exciting culinary adventure: as offal stew, it awakens some of our worst and most unreasonable food prejudices, most of which go back to our childhoods.

But, hey, I’m no more immune to these food prejudices than the rest of us. Trippa is just a little too close to English tripe, so I don’t need an explanation of what it is to know beyond a shadow of doubt that I’m not going to like it. That one goes back to childhood – I’ve never eaten it, but I recall parents telling me what it was, and that was enough to firmly fix in my head, probably forever, that I didn’t like it and never would.

I also recall an occasion, some years ago, while living in Singapore, coming across a hawker stand on the corniche of the Singapore River, advertising the one specialty of the stall in both Chinese and English. As the Chinese was written in Chinese characters, I had no idea how to read it, let alone say it, but the English was a particularly infelicitous piece of literal dictionary translation: “Pigs’ Parts Soup”! The immediate picture conjured by this choice of words was anything but appealing – a steaming miasma of piglet willies in broth, eaten outside in a temperature of 32° C and 100% humidity! Plenty of local customers; not an English speaking foreign tourist in sight. It comes back to what I said above: coratella di agnello ticks the boxes, lamb offal doesn’t.

A few years ago, our lovely friend Mr Ed from Yorkshire was eating with us at an outdoor taverna (San Pietro) here in Bevagna at the Mercato Delle Gaite. Now, Ed is not the type of Englishman who will only eat overcooked meat and three veg, hot on the table at midday, seven days a week. Well-travelled, fluent in French and Spanish, he is thoroughly internationalized and enjoys the local food wherever he is. So he was being just a touch mischievous on reading the Italian menu when he said:

“There’s something called Stinko here!”

“No Ed, that’s stinco – stinco di maiale. It’s a barbecued pork shank. Nothing in the least stinky -  unless you really dislike the smell of roast meat cooked slowly over a wood fire.”

Luckily, there was no English menu. I wonder how the utterly marvelous Stinco di Maiale might have been lost in translation!

You can try this yourself by slow cooking on a barbecue, with a steel herb box to infuse the meat with flavors like rosemary or tarragon, thyme and oregano. If your barbecue has a thermometer, around 120° C is a good temperature for a long, slow cook – about an hour to an hour and a quarter. Let the meat sit for 10 – 15 minutes when you think it’s done.

Taverna at the Mercato delle Gaite

Country: Italy

Province/State: Umbria

City: Bevagna

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: N/A

Phone: N/A

Website:http://www.ilmercatodelle...

Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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