That wraparound translation effect
Sometimes, what happens in translation can have its own unmistakable richness. Take Z Guinaudeau’s wonderful recipe for mchoui [whole spit-roasted lamb] given to me by my friend, the cookbook writer Alice Sherwood: “Choose a young sheep, fat but not too big. Bsmillah. Plunge the knife into the carotid and let the blood spout out to the last drop. Wash the gash in the throat seven times. Make a hole with the point of the knife just above the knee joint of one of the back legs between flesh and skin. Put a stick through this hole and turning it round, start to loosen the skin. Through this opening blow till the air gets to the forelegs and makes them stick up. The sheep will then swell and stiffen as though it had been a long time in water …”
What this passage does, it seems to me, is to succeed through the sheer clumsiness of translation. Put another way, the translation of the experience is owed to the mistranslation of the idiom. This rich description of what it is we do when we plant, harvest, slaughter, butcher, knead, bake, roast and consume ought not, of course, to be left to the inadvertent payload of inadequate translation. The strongest food writers aim exactly for that wraparound translation effect.
Simon Schama on the language of food