At the table, when presented with the multi-page menu featuring these 60+ dishes there was confusion among the diners as to the terminology used. No one, Brazilian or otherwise, seemed able to decipher exactly what the restaurant meant when one dish was described as including carneiro, another cordeiro, a third borrego, and others including bode, cabrito or capra. Clearly a bit of linguistic and gastronomic research was in order for Flavors of Brazil. (Incidentally, the group ordered a wide variety of dishes, notwithstanding not being sure exactly what the meat was in any particular dish, and the results were more than satisfactory. Carneiro do Ordones clearly knows its way around the Caprinae family and how its members are best served to hungry diners).
Zoologically, the Caprinae family of animals is divided into two sub-families, sheep (Ovis) and goats (Capra). Cularinarily, the same distinction between sheep and goats is maintained, although there are many similarities between the meat from both sub-families. They share a distinctive, strongly-aromatic flavor that people tend to either love or hate (most people aren't neutral about eating goats and sheep), and also share a similar nutritional profile - less fat, and hence fewer calories, than beef or pork, and a lower quantity of cholesterol as well. The strong flavor of their meat increases with age, and consequently, most people prefer to eat meat slaughtered at a young age than more mature and more strongly-flavored meat from older animals.
In English culinary terminology, meat from younger sheep is called lamb and from older animals is referred to as mutton. When goats are slaughtered at an early age, their meat is called kid, leaving the name goat for meat from older animals. After doing some research in Portuguese dictionaries and culinary guides, Flavors of Brazil discovered that Portuguese makes the same age distinction, though the terms tend to be more flexible and interchangeable.
Carneiro is the proper name for meat from older sheep - mutton in English. It is also the Portuguese equivalent of ram, that is, the male of the sheep family. Carneiro comes generally from animals that were more than one year old at the time they were slaughtered and processed. When the animal is younger than one year, its meat is most commomly called cordeiro, although depending on the region of Brazil the terms borrego or anho might alternatively be used.
|Capra aegagrus hircus|
On the goat side of the family, the name of the meat depends on the age of the animal when it's slaughtered, just as with cordeiro and carneiro. When the animal is more than a year old, its meat is called bode and when it's younger, optimally around six months, it's cabrito or capra. In some areas of Brazil, particularly the northeast, the term bode is used for all goat meat, whether from a young animal or an older one.