A loaf of bread, a steak, and thou

Photos: Chicago Meat Authority, Photocase

My grandfather Clifford Alonson Cole was a pious man of the cloth, and for him – and especially for his wife, my grandmother Bessie Mae – foul or frivolous language was both sinful and a sign of bad taste. But once when we sat down with them to a dinner of T-bone steak, Grandpa solemnly intoned this obviously old and treasured gem: “The closer the bone, the sweeter the meat; the prettier the girl the harder to get.”

Grandma was properly scandalized, which is maybe why this aphorism stuck in my mind for 60 years.

Today, we were visiting our favorite butcher in Mauterndorf, and I was chatting with his charming wife Andrea, and the talk turned to various cuts of meat that are hard to find in Austria. I recently purchased a “frying pan steak” at Harrod’s in London, which consists of a piece of the rib with a thick, round slab of prime steak attached to one end. „Oh yeah, that’s just the entrecote, except you leave the bone on it”, Andrea said. Which triggered my memory, and I recited Grandpa Cole’s truism , which I then had to translate for her into German.

Suddenly, one of the butcher’s assistants piped up: “We have the same thing here in Lungau: ‘Des Fleisch am Boan, des Madel am Roan.’”

“Boan” is the local pronunciation of “Bein”, or bone. And “Roan” is “Rain” in High German, which describes an embankment or the path between two neighboring fields, the implication probably being that a pretty girl waiting for you in the pasture, like a good steak, is something to look forward to. So Grandpa, at least, wasn’t alone in his association. I’ll remember that the next time I carve a juicy T-bone…

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