Thursday, June 14, 2012

Watch your tongue

"Sheep's head is usually served roasted or boiled," I said, pointing at the flesh-covered skulls in the corner of the butcher's case, their tongues lolling out between stubby teeth below their bulging eyeballs. "Here's the sheep's liver, and its heart. And did you see the cow tongue back there?" I asked my tour group, indicating a chunk of whitish meat roughly the size and shape of a human forearm.

"No, no," one of the butchers interjected. "It's kaynana tongue."

I racked my brain for the meaning of the unfamiliar word. Was it water buffalo, like the animal whose liver he'd already said was even bigger than the massive cow liver on display? No, that's manda. Was this little shop alongside the Spice Bazaar doing a secret trade in exotic animal parts? Perhaps I should have paid more attention during that useless-seeming Turkish 1 lesson where we studied the words for "giraffe" and "kangaroo."

The butcher repeated himself, clearly dismayed at my still-quizzical expression. "Are you married?" he asked, pointing to his ring finger. I shook my head. "That's why you don't understand..."

As I continued explaining the different types of offal to my guests, the other butcher took pity on me. "Senin beyin annesi," he said with a slight smile.

A-ha. Mother-in-law's tongue.

Tomorrow I'll have to tell them that we have a plant with the same name -- one that's sharp and a bit poisonous.

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