It’s been interesting for us to watch the news here lately, as the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Conference is going on in Laos right now. As one newscaster put it, 16 heads of state representing half of the world’s population are in attendance (China and India are there too, as well as Australia). There are all sorts of reports on the news about what is happening, and we’ve enjoyed getting the Indonesian, Australian, and British points of view. There seem to be some problems within the organization about Burma’s government, as it is a military dictatorship which has a history of human rights abuses, but nobody seems willing to bring up this issue. (TP points out that all of these countries probably have this same problem in their recent histories; jm thinks that conflict avoidance is a very Southeast Asian trait). Now that the Australian PM has showed up, the new problem is that he won’t sign a non-agression pact with ASEAN countries. He has said that is unnecessary– but it would also anger the US, with whom he has previous agreements. Also, he probably doesn’t want to. Who knows when Australia will find it necessary to invade Brunei? In all seriousness, though, he does want to reserve the right to come after Indonesia if he thinks that the new president does not successfully crack down on terrorism.
On a completely unrelated note (and one that does not have anything to do with Indonesia) I (jm) spent some time this morning trying to figure out if cows, oxen, and buffalos are related, and if so, how. We were talking about oxtail soup yesterday, wondering if it actually has tail in it (it does) and then we decided we didn’t know what an ox actually was. So after about three zillion online dictionary and encyclopedia definitions, I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody else does really either. Well that’s not entirely true. Ox is the word for a domesticated bovine quadruped, and is a larger category name for buffalo, bison, yaks, water buffalo, etc. It is usually used to refer to cattle that have been trained as working animals from the time they are young. Basically, all of these animals are pretty closely related, but their evolutionary relationship is obscure. Also, a cow refers to the female of any of these animals, and what we have in the US are bison, not buffalo. A buffalo is indeed a type of ox, however they are the strain found in Asia and Africa. Bison are decended from European creatures, and there are some still roaming the forests of Lithuania. We also learned that water buffalos and cape buffalos are true buffalos. There is no word in here that specifically and only refers to the animal that hamburgers come from (except the scientific term, Bos Taurus). If any of you know anything about this subject, please let us know as we are still a little confused!
Oh, and one more unrelated thing. I saw a news headline yesterday proclaiming that some recent Botulism cases may have been caused by Botox. Hmmmmm, didn’t see that one coming.
Josh December 2, 2004
I’m under the impression that cattle and buffalo are related in the same cattle and goats and sheep are, i.e., they’re all ungulates. There’s no genetic difference between ‘ox’ and ‘cattle’ and ‘cow’ and ‘bull’; they’re just semantic differences. Well, I guess there’s a genetic difference between ‘cow’ and ‘bull,’ but you know what I mean. It’s basically the same situation as ‘horse,’ ‘colt,’ ‘fillie,’ etc.
Oxtail soup is basically the least repulsive thing made out of the carcasses of oxen too old to work anymore. As you might imagine, work animals are not as tender and tasty as animals raised specifically for food, but the tail isn’t too bad. What’s sold as ‘oxtail’ in the US is actually just regular beef tail, but the word ‘oxtail’ is fixed in English from when the tails of old oxen were a regular menu item.
As for buffalo, the original fresh mozzarella in Italy is made from the milk of water buffaloes imported to the Naples area by Saracens/Arabs from North Africa, hence the full name, ‘mozzarella di bufala.’ Cheese made from cow’s milk with the fresh mozzarella method is not legally called ‘mozzarella’ in Italy, but rather ‘fior di latte,’ (literally ‘flower of milk’). What we normally think of as mozzarella in the US is aged mozzarella in Italy, or ‘scamorza’ (I think).
There’s a place at the West Shore Farmer’s Market that sells imported mozzarella di bufala, and it tastes amazing on pizza because the fat content is far higher.
Julie and Tom December 2, 2004
This is all good stuff. Apparently, ungulates also include antelopes, and according to some source or another, there are like 140 species or something. The problem is that a female buffalo or bison or yak or anything of these species of the subfamily “Bovinae” is also technically a “cow.” So is the word for several female yaks “cattle” (being the plural of “cow”)? Very confusing. Why isn’t my dissertation finished?
There is an oxtail soup here called Sop Buntut, which includes all sorts of vegetables and spices. They have whole flats of oxtails sitting around in the grocery stores here for sale. Some of the more “unique” local soups around here also feature oxtail, in addition to offal (Coto Makassar) or lung and heart (Soto Betawi). In case you’re wondering why “soup” is rendered variously as “Sop,” “Coto,” and “Soto,” we don’t know either.
As for mozzarella di bufula, one of the nice things about New England is that most grocery stores and almost every specialty store has mozzarella di bufula. Insalata Caprese just doesn’t taste the same without it.
Sandy December 2, 2004
Well all this discussion about cattle and oxen have reminded me of that special species that Ren and Stimpy identified. Of course I’m speaking of the “Great American Lummox” and his mate the “Lummox Cow”. Ren and Stimpy’s scientific description and illustration of same are priceless.
fazu December 3, 2004
“jm thinks that conflict avoidance is a very Southeast Asian trait”
Oh God, how true!