Thursday, February 02, 2006

We've Got the Bleat

There’s no need to be sheepish about knowing that on this day in 1880 the SS Strathleven arrived in London with the first Australian frozen mutton. London rejoiced, as the arrival of this shipment brought an end to a ten year period known far from affectionately as the Thames Turns Lambs Limbs Mightily Messy Disgusting Decade and sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Throw-up in Her Mouth.” (Look, I know that doesn’t scan, but you have to say the end really quickly because your mouth is otherwise occupied. Assuming your name is Mary.) Indeed, the earliest practice shipments and their sickening smell (which later took its own boat and now resides near Elizabeth on the Jersey Turnpike) are why etymologists believe the original word was muttoff, not mutton. Of course, while freezing made shipping the mutton possible, it also made thawing the mutton difficult. That’s why Victorian men would wear the meat about their ears, leading to the quite fashionable mutton chop. And to many Londoners dying from nibbling at raw lamb about their heads when they felt a bit peckish.


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