One of the idiosyncrasies of the English language is that it can be completely different depending on where you’re speaking it. In America, for instance, if someone told you to “get your fanny over here”, you might expect to be on the receiving end of a gentle castigation or a tongue-in-cheek ticking off. If anyone in England outside of your relationship mentions your fanny, however, you’re best off leaving the premises as quickly as possible.
The difficulty of transatlantic translation can obviously lead to mistakes. However, few of these errors capture the public imagination quite like this cock-up from respected American food publication “Spruce Eats”.
In a recipe posted to the website on Monday, the author described a “delicious” recipe for a “classic British Christmas treat” in the form of a traditional mince pie. As anyone in England will tell you, this particular dish calls for buttery pastry, a dusting of sugar and a filling made from heavily spiced dried fruit. “Delicious” doesn’t do it justice.
However, while this particular recipe understood the need for sugar and pastry, things fell apart when it came to the “mince”. If ever you needed proof why you need an Anglo/American dictionary, this is it.
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Instead of incorporating the usual mix of apples, raisins and spices, the Spruce Eats recipe decided to take the term “mincemeat” literally and suggested cooks cram their pies full of full-fat beef mince. In order to leave nothing to the imagination, they then provided pictures of the pie, laden with a bizarre mixture of raw beef and apples. They then made matters worse by suggesting it should be served with custard. If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of Santa crying.
Predictably, the internet exploded with a bizarre mix of horror, outrage and hysterical laughter. Several Twitter posts went viral after audiences couldn’t quite believe that a professional chef had assumed that mixing sugary pastry, apples, beef and creme Anglaise was a good idea.
Dozens more pointed out the alarming similarity between this dish and Rachel’s infamous “Beef Trifle” from classic sitcom “Friends”. As one Twitterer put it, "I shudder to think what it tastes like - basically, a Meat Pie with Baked Apples on top, covered with Custard. I'm sure Joey would like it."
Fortunately for both potential home cooks and their own reputation, Spruce Eats soon rectified the error. The website now features a recipe for a “Now Meat Free!!!!” mincemeat and apple tart. Nonetheless, in many ways, the damage has already been done. Let this be a lesson to anyone who can’t be bothered to double-check. Remember, when you assume, you make an ass out of “u” and “meat”.