It’s Official: Offal’s Not So Awful After All

November 9, 2009

I’ve been thinking about all the kinds of foods I’ve eaten in the last couple of culinarily adventurous years, and am somedeal proud of the assortment of variety meats I’ve been lucky and brave enough to try. Below is a list of the types of offal I’ve eaten, organized by animal, followed below by my humble appraisal of each:

pig: belly,cheeks
chicken: liver, gizzard, heart, feet
turkey: gizzard, heart
cow: liver, brain, thymus, stomach, kidney, tongue
monkey: syke!

Gizzards is the bomb-diggy. Look at me askance all youse want, but I love rubbery meat! The more it’s made of muscle, the more I’ll like it, almost guaranteed. Gizzards are tricky thanks to the good bit of gristle you have to work your teeth around, but the dark sinewy hard-packed muscle is simply super-duper.

Hearts are rubbery too, with the added bonus of allowing one to consume and assume the courage of the animal it came from (seeing as how I most often eat chicken hearts this may explain my cold feet and weak knees).

Tripe the jury’s still out. I’ve had it twice, the first time, in Rome, it was delish, the second time, in Madrid, it tasted like cow poo. Maybe it was another type (there are three, each from a different of the cow’s four stomachs). Maybe the Spanish don’t flush it as well? I dunno. Texturally however tripe is another rubbery to the point of almost crunchy meat, which I liked.

Brain was a little too squishy with assorted bits, like rancid custard. Not my kinda texture at all.  Plus I really had to deliberately not think about what what I was eating had been thinking about before it became my meal, lest I get it into my head that I was eating it’s thoughts. Calf brain, my stomach, my brain: a most unholy communion.

Thymus (sweetbread) had a little better texture, kinda flaky almost like fish, but the taste was not at all worth the bother. I’ve had tastier meat in a slim jim.

Liver: the godawfullest type of food put on this planet to date. No, thank you mom, I don’t care how rich in iron it is I still don’t want to eat that cow’s toxin-catcher.

Kidney came in a pie. I couldn’t tell you what it was like or how it tasted. Either I don’t remember or it was unnoticable enough not to lodge in my memory in the first place.

Feet: probably more dependent on the preparation than anything else (like wings I reckon) but ultimately not worth it to get the tiny little bit of tasty between all those knuckles. 1.3 billion people may disagree with me on that one.

Tongue: I like it! Another pretty rubbery meat. And good on a samich.

Cheeks: Indistinguishable (to me) from any pother pulled pork-ish preparation. Tasty enough, but I could have just had the PP sandwich and not known the difference. I’d like to try it prepared in other ways.

There is plenty of offal I have not (yet) tried: fries (I can tell you I’m in no hurry to scratch that one off my list), lips, snout, tail, chitterlings, cockscombs, spleen, udder, cheeks, blood (unless blood sausage counts), and for better or for worse, penis, uterus, scrotum, etc. Name yer part, you can find a dish of it.

Then there’s your various offal concoctions, such as liverwurst (yum!) and scrapple, souse, chitterlings, and many others.

I’m all for waste parts æsthetically. It’s an essential component of my intractable hedonism, and so by principle if something tastes good that’s all I need, even/especially if it violates some primal taboo like don’t eat thoughts. But a little variety in your meat is anti-waste too — it uses up the whole animal not just the muscle — and therefore would please my parents, republicans, and other conservative types. What other cuisine, I ask you, strikes such an impressive balance between moral decline and the kind of restraint that keeps civilizations strong?

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