Everyone who considers themselves a food lover knows that the very best mozzarella does not come from a cow. No – don’t look at the title of this post, and misunderstand me completely! What I mean is, most mozzarella is made with cow’s milk, but proper mozzarella, the finest mozzarella is made from water buffalo milk – and to be absolutely clear, from a water buffalo cow.
In English we don’t have that peculiarity of so many foreign languages where every word has a masculine and feminine gender, and sometimes a neuter as well, and this is most often indicated by how the word ends – in Spanish and Italian, an ‘-o’ at the end of the word means the word is ‘masculine’, and an ‘-a’ is feminine. To put it simply, a girl is always Maria (if that’s her name), and a boy is always Mario. It’s obvious to an English-speaker that using ‘Mario’ instead of ‘Maria’ just sounds horribly wrong when addressing a woman. We may not think that using an ‘-a’ ending instead of an ‘-o’ makes much of a difference with words we aren’t familiar with, but to Italian and Spanish speakers, our lapses in using the correct ending can cause misunderstandings, hysterical laughter and even offense.
Back to the buffalo – in English we just call them buffalo – and if we want to distinguish them in gender, we have to say a ‘buffalo bull’ or a ‘buffalo cow’. In Italian the gender issue is dealt with more elegantly – a ‘bufala‘ is a buffalo cow, and a ‘bufalo‘ is a buffalo bull. Many English speaking foodies, who are oblivious to the distinction, but want to show off their superior taste and knowledge will make declarations about what they call ‘mozzarella di bufalo‘- do you see where I’m going with this? In Italian’, they have just said ‘mozzarella from a bull buffalo’. Italians find this understandably hilarious.
If you want to use the Italian phrasing, make quite sure you say ‘mozzarella di bufala‘, and if that is all too much for you, then just say ‘buffalo mozzarella’. Don’t ever say ‘mozzarella di bufalo‘.
Listen to the audio here: