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What's So Offal About "Unmentionable Cuisine"?
August 21, 2013 6:35 PM   Subscribe

On December 18, 1980, the New York Review of Books published M.F.K. Fisher's review of "Unmentionable Cuisine," by Calvin W. Schwabe. "Yuk!" begins with these words: "In spite of my firm belief that I can eat anything my hosts choose to serve me, there are a few high-protein tidbits that I hope never to have to cope with, and almost all of them are discussed cheerfully in this extraordinary book."

Fisher comments on various recipes therein, and on Schwabe's whimsical prose** ("He says of the sizzling tiny mice, for instance, 'These are probably great as hors d’oeuvres with margaritas.'"). But, she concludes, "along with all this seeming nonchalance he is dead serious, and his peculiar book about the unmentionables, the taboos, the conditioned prejudices we all accept, is an important one. Anybody who on casually turning the pages says “yuk” should read on."

* See the table of contents for yourself, including Horsemeat, Dog and Cat Meat, Rodent and Other Mammalian Meat
* A detailed look at the material: "It pulls you out of your culinary comfort zone and invites to think about about an entirely new and scarier larder."

Ready to consider a few unusual possibilities? Good!

* Offal: "In Britain, the love of offal is the love that dare not speak its name"
* Why not bugs?: "Modern Americans with our cultural bias against the very idea of eating bugs and insects have missed out on the opportunity to enjoy not only some good tasting foods, but also an excellent source of nutrition."
* Offal of the Week: A reading list.
* Cooking Mountain Hare the Schwabe way (photos of skinned hare)
* Maybe squirrel? No moose, though.
* What can you find in Boise, Idaho? Gizzard ice cream.
* What to do with grasshoppers? Fry them in garlic butter!
* Apartment vermin? You're covered! "Try Bordeaux-style grilled rats. Gut and skin rats, then baste them with "a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots," according to Calvin Schwabe, author of Unmentionable Cuisine. His instructions tell you to cook the rats over a crackling fire, but a small countertop grill would probably do the trick."
* Snakes? I ate snakes!
* Cooking with testicles. Don't tell my husband, but I always toss the turkey testicles.

On eating, and choosing not to, and one blogger's lasting affection for Schwabe's work:

* A few chefs dish on the freakiest things they've ever tasted. That must have taken some intestinal fortitude.
* Hunter Gardener Angler Cook on the lines we draw.
* An enduring appreciation for "Unmentionable Cuisine."

In the spirit of Schwabe (and Julia Child): Bon appetit!


** Schwabe was also known as the father of veterinary epidemiology and authored the presumably drier "Veterinary Medicine and Human Health."
posted by MonkeyToes (89 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
posted by MonkeyToes
Eponymously
posted by 445supermag at 6:42 PM on August 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Own a copy. A great book.
posted by jgaiser at 7:05 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great post. Took a lot of guts to put this together.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:11 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


One man's trash is another man's traditional Chinese delicacy.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:13 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


From personal experience, moose tastes great as jerky.

My question is - Why do people hate on snake so much?
posted by Samizdata at 7:13 PM on August 21, 2013


I would eat a snake before a bug or offal, or even oysters*.

*I will only eat oysters if I'm drunk.
posted by Mister_A at 7:15 PM on August 21, 2013


I eat oysters sober. Although I need a Benadryl or something afterwards due to a mild allergy.

I like tripe AND I have eaten roast grubs.
posted by Samizdata at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2013


I have eaten almost every kind of offal and animal you can imagine. I suppose being English of a certain locality and generation it seems pretty mundane to eat brains, kidneys and so on. I'll basically try anything, and usually like it. There is only one thing I have been unable to eat, which was fermented octopus. I got some of it down but there wasn't anything pleasant at all. It was in a Sushi restaurant in Madrid, which seems odd, so that may have something to do with it.
posted by unSane at 7:22 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another vote for tripe here, if cooked properly.
posted by unSane at 7:23 PM on August 21, 2013


I suppose being English of a certain locality and generation it seems pretty mundane to eat brains, kidneys and so on.

Jellied eels, then?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:32 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zimmern: "Looks like you still got a bullet in the chamber."
Chef: "Oh yeah, that gives it more flavor."
Zimmern: "...you only live once." [scarfs it down] "Kinda salty."

Runner-up for the grossest thing I've ever seen intentionally eaten is the Sicilian maggot cheese. It seems like something the Harkonnens would have eaten in David Lynch's Dune.
posted by XMLicious at 7:41 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've certainly had my share of osso buco, sweetbreads, foie gras, and so forth. And all the shellfish. And who knows what in pho. Tripe and tendon, I think.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2013


I own a copy. This gem heads up the section on fish:
Fermented Shark (Hákarl) / Iceland

Eviscerated sharks are buried in the sand or kept in an open barrel for three years. The resulting much-prized product is rich in ammonia, and its taste resembles that of some ripe cheeses.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:44 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jellied eels, then?

Sure, absolutely. Haslet was what we ate as kids. Delicious.
posted by unSane at 7:46 PM on August 21, 2013


I've pretty much eaten everything that's ever been offered to me. My list of foods I dislike are mostly due to the difficulty of eating them, not the taste (fuck you, artichokes!). And I've at least tried them to be sure.
posted by padraigin at 7:47 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Around here, the Amish produce a lot of Scrapple, made from the worst bits of the most awful offal. It's the stuff they can't use in any other form, not even to make glue. Waste not want not. My grandfather was always frying it up and trying to get us to eat it. I inherited his set of cast iron frying pans that he used to fry Scrapple, but I just can't bring myself to cook in them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:55 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Scrapple sounds absolutely wonderful. Can you get it in Canada - a Mennonite thing maybe?
posted by unSane at 7:59 PM on August 21, 2013


The Explorers Club had an insect dinner years ago, and my late mother-in-law, a food scholar, and I went. Everything tasted crunchy.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:04 PM on August 21, 2013


Send me all your scrapple pans at my own expense, memail me. I love both pans and scrapple. So also send me any scrapple you've got lying around.
posted by padraigin at 8:08 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's about time for some marinated sauteed chicken hearts. Best meat on the bird!
posted by planetesimal at 8:15 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


As I've mentioned many times here before, there are too ways to think of scrapple: fried polenta with meat flavor, or fried giblet gravy. We can't buy it out here, but we make it our selves, we go to the mexican market and get some pork neck bones, pork liver and masa harina (like is used to make tamales).
posted by 445supermag at 8:18 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sounds wonderful to you maybe. Not me. I can find the local product in grocery stores in cans, sort of like Spam. But you can find it on Amazon.com. Wow that isn't cheap. They show only the label, they appear to be selling it in transparent packages, which seems to me it would just kill your sales. It's ugly. I do not endorse this product. It is inedible. And this product certainly isn't the most authentic scrapple, it seems to be some gourmet version (this entire concept is ludicrous). The real thing is grey and ashen, most commercial USDA Inspected scrapple products have added real meat, which is the only way you could get anyone to eat it, but is definitely not authentic. That would be a waste of real meat.

I've pretty much eaten everything that's ever been offered to me. My list of foods I dislike are mostly due to the difficulty of eating them, not the taste..

That is one good place to draw the line. I am a pretty adventurous eater, but I have had people serve extreme foods to me that seemed like a prank. That's when I say, "I don't know how to eat this. Show me." Yeah, it was a prank, they wouldn't eat it either.

On edit: homemade scrapple just isn't the same, your recipe seems to be actual food with real meat, not scrapple. You can't buy the worst animal bits that they use to make it, they would be disposed of as waste before it got to a store. And nobody's getting my heirloom frying pans.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:22 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh my goodness, charlie don't surf, please do not be put off by whatever was once cooked in your family cast iron. It is the most forgiving and hardiest of all the cooking utensils I know of. Yes, it is heavy and no, the old pieces do not marry well with those pretty new flat top ranges (why? why? okay, yes I once owned one. It came built in with a house we bought. nix nix nix) Cast iron remembers everything it ever cooked in the best possible way because using it only makes it better. But it also forgives all the yucky stuff your grandparent ever cooked in it and all the bad mistakes I ever made trying new recipes or even making tried and true recipes and let burn to a state not even the wild critters would touch. Cast iron don't care. Cast iron just is. You can even let it rust to an angry red patina; you can let an old oil sheen turn into a moldy white sweater; you can let the dust of ages bury it neglected. It can still be redeemed and make the best cornbread you ever put in your sorry mouth.
posted by maggieb at 8:26 PM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hot dogs, anyone?

The ketchup's on the table.


(I love scrapple [with a fried egg on top] and you can't get it in the far, far west.)
posted by BlueHorse at 8:28 PM on August 21, 2013


One thing that really sucked about living in a town with only chain supermarkets and no butcher shops is that they priced the few bits of offal and stuff like short ribs and oxtail like specialty items.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:34 PM on August 21, 2013


homemade scrapple just isn't the same, your recipe seems to be actual food with real meat, not scrapple.

I was making scrapple back when you were shittin' yellow, so don't tell me that only "store bought" stuff is authentic. When I was growing up we pretty much raised all our own food, and when we butchered out hogs we always made scrapple (and sausage) and we never used crap. Trimmings that are too small for cuts of meat go to sausage - and meat that is stuck to bones or is too difficult to cut loose (i.e. neck bones - not the head that gets made into souse and smoked jowls) is used for scrapple (along with the liver). The bones are the necessary source of the gelatin that make it set up. Believe me, hotdogs and bologna have much worse stuff in them than scrapple - a good rule of thumb is the finer it's ground, the nastier it was to start with.
posted by 445supermag at 8:40 PM on August 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


As much as I support the idea of eating insects in theory, I'm not sure I could put my money where my mouth is...

Take earthworms, let them purge their alimentary canals of waste materials for a day and then dry, grind and add as an extra to any other food you have cooking on the campfire for a nice protein rich addition.

...and I think this is why. You're not just eating muscle or an organ, you're eating everything.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:44 PM on August 21, 2013


I made scrapple from scratch once. I had access to hog's heads, feet, tails and other scraps from butchering that happened every fall near where I lived. My mother-in-law was with us during one of her month-long(!) visits. Her deceased husband had been a fan of scrapple so she was my cheering section. My recipe called for stripping the meat from bone and fat after cooking. That was nothing new for me. I hate fat unless it is fried crsipy or rendered liquid for ...many uses... I have nothing against bones. The marrow is delicious and they are lickable but I cannot physically eat bones. Mince all that meat, yes, it is meat, tiny bits from unusual places, with cornmeal, spices and some gelatinous broth. Cool to let it congeal and become infused with your herbs/spices. Slice and fry. What I made was fine. Spam is easier.
posted by maggieb at 8:45 PM on August 21, 2013


I assure you that scrapple was not nearly the worst thing ever fried in these pans. My grandfather was a veterinarian and USDA researcher specializing in livestock disease. I have his old vet textbooks and they are horrifying. My mother told me stories of how he would bring home condemned meat from diseased animals and fry it, stinking up the house, and then he would dissect it and examine it under a microscope. The set of 7 pans has a thick black seasoned surface, they were well used, and certainly are well over 50 years old, I suspect closer to 100. But I am afraid to even handle them, for fear of getting brucellosis or anthrax or something.

Returning someone back to the topic of the OP links, my grandfather was also a big fan of Prairie Oysters. No doubt this was an eccentricity from his days as a horseback range rider for the USDA in Colorado. Any cowboy veterinarian would certainly have a plentiful supply of excised beef testicles.

Now you guys have me curious, I'm going to look for crappy canned scrapple in the stores tomorrow when I go grocery shopping. If it is anything reminiscent of the horrors I remember, I may threaten to send some to people.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:56 PM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sago grubs are a popular delicacy in my locale. Haven't tried them due to halal issues.

"Sucking snails" are also eaten, so called because you have to suck them out of their shell. Tried 'em, don't care for them.

Ambal: a kind of sea worm that lives in a case. Good stirfried with turmeric and coconut milk. But then everything is good stirfried with turmeric and coconut milk.
posted by BinGregory at 9:04 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


All you want to know about scrapple, and more: Country Scrapple, by William Woys Weaver.

I was the last person to check out Unmentionable Cuisine in our library system before it physically disintegrated enough that they made it for in-library use only.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:05 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eating beef testicles is not that weird. I'm waiting for Pioneer Woman to do an episode. Ha! No, really, I think it is a fad rather than a culinary delight. There is an annual Super Bowl party in these parts that features Bull Balls and Bullfrog Legs. Frog legs have a texture like chicken legs but around here they are gigged from farm ponds so have a distinct fishy flavor. Beef testicles have very little flavor beyond the breading and oil they are fried in and the texture is similar to a dense sea scallop.

Eating snails was the most courageous food adventure I ever tried. OMG, they are so good!

Grew up eating oysters because my dad loved them.

After seeing fly-blown goat carcasses in Morocco I was more than happy to enjoy stews and kabobs cooked over nearby open fires. Lucky for me my digestive system has happy too because the toilets were squat over a hole and that was the luxury version.

My uncles hunted squirrels which my grandmother made into the most delicious brown gravy stew served over biscuits.

I'll try anything once but have never met a liver that didn't make me gag.
posted by maggieb at 9:44 PM on August 21, 2013


You guys don't eat scrapple? Try it toasted, on toast.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:50 PM on August 21, 2013


Ahhhh, sometime long ago I read the introduction or preface or something to this book, and esteemed it greatly, and then could never recover the name again, so thank you very much for this post!
posted by kenko at 9:52 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sicilian maggot cheese

Now I want to die.
posted by scody at 10:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Snails are probably the weirdest tasting thing I ate. Sort of an ashy taste. Did not like. Much preferred fried grass-hoppers. Actually much preferred the poor adorable baby octopii. I felt too guilty about them to ever eat them again.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:02 PM on August 21, 2013


Brains and eggs used to be a standard menu item of local diners. I can still buy a can of brains in my _one_ supermarket. I am afraid to try it on my own. Yet, I am curious.
posted by maggieb at 10:10 PM on August 21, 2013


While living in China, those that didn't know me would always ask what I liked to eat / was there anything I didn't like. I really got tired of that question. Basically, I'd answer "order anything and everything you like and don't tell me what it is. If I don't like it I'll tell you and even then I'll try anything at least twice."

I ate my way through China, Korea, Japan, SE Asia. I'm not sure what some of it was but there was lots of offal and fermented stuff, bug, duck tongue, bullfrog, dog, brain, feet, etc, prepared in many, many ways It was almost always uniformly tasty.
posted by michswiss at 10:29 PM on August 21, 2013


Actually much preferred the poor adorable baby octopii. I felt too guilty about them to ever eat them again.

I used to frequent a crappy izakaya in Tokyo where the cab drivers used to hang out all evening to drink and eat, that's how I knew it was cheap and decent food. They used to send over strange foods and to see if the weird gaijin would eat it. I would always eat it. And then they would talk about me eating it, and they didn't know I could understand what they were saying about me. I just sat there quietly and enjoyed the occasional weird free foods.

One evening they sent over a dish of hotaru ika, Firefly Squid. Before the waitress brought it, she dimmed the lights so I could see the phosphorescence, and then suddenly I have an immaculately presented dish of an exquisite delicacy, only available for a couple of weeks of the year. Even the ceramic plate is amazing, it appears to be an antique.

I used to live in Hakodate, which is famous for its squid fishing, but I was never there during hotaru ika season, but I have heard of it and for years I wanted to try it. And suddenly, in this darkened izakaya, all eyes are on me, waiting to see if the henna gaijin will eat it. I'm looking around and noticing this scene, and suddenly I notice on the TV mounted up in the corner of the room, there is an NHK news video about hotaru ika fishing in Hakodate. Oh there's the old Omori Docks, where the tako boats are moored. I used to walk past it every day on the way to school. There are the boats, fishing out on the ocean, with the high powered lights that draw the squid to the surface. Then they pull in the nets, and glowing mounds of hotaru ika spill over the deck, into containers. Then suddenly it's over, and the cab drivers changed the channel, they want to watch the stupid soccer game. Oh well, that little moment of synchronicity is over.

But now I have to eat the damn things. I've eaten squid in about every form known to man, but this one is new to me. And I sure as hell am not going to embarrass myself in front of all the locals. Of course I know how to eat this, don't I? But do I just wolf it down? They're only about 3 or 4 inches long. And what's all this other stuff on the plate? I know it's not just for decoration.

Then I notice the old guy sitting next to me. He's always there, I have my regular spot next to his. He never says a thing, he never really even acknowledges my existence, or anyone else, not even the waitress that brings his food. He just sits there every night and eats slowly while he reads the horse racing form in the newspaper. He's really old, I don't even know if he is deaf or mute, but he never reacts to anything and never says anything. But he sees me hesitate, and subtly starts giving me little hand gestures to indicate what to do. The little herb flowery things get plucked off the stem and dropped in the miso. Mm fragrant, I never heard of that before. The weird wasabi goes on the ika. Well I knew that. I guess I do know how to eat this. Smear the wasabi with a fingertip, drizzle the shoyu on top, I learned those habits from eating ika-sashi in Hakodate, which makes my table manners look like I'm a country bumpkin. This is a matter of much hilarity to the Tokyo cab drivers, as they watch the weird American who has the manners of a hick from Hokkaido.

I manage to eat the ika without any obvious coaching from the old guy, and it was unobserved by the cab drivers, baffling them even more. Much uproar occurs at their table, I think they were taking bets on whether I'd eat it or not. I think one of the guys must have won some money, as he sends over a pretty expensive bottle of shochu. They came over to my table for the first time, and discover I can speak Japanese, they're stunned and start asking where I learned it, "Oh I just learned from a textbook, in America." They don't believe me, I am messing with them by speaking formally, and they say I sound like a college professor. They are all chatting with me and asking me where I learned to eat hotaru ika. Well everyone knows you go to Hakodate for ika. They can't believe this weird American who has been sitting there alone for the last week, eating the weird things they sent over, is bullshitting them back just as hard as they've been trying to prank me.

I can't even drink about half the bottle of shochu and I can barely sit up, let alone walk home a few blocks. It is time to go for it. When I think nobody is looking (which is never) I swipe the half-drunk bottle of shochu and stick it in my coat pocket, and stumble out the door. They had their fun and so did I.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:19 PM on August 21, 2013 [234 favorites]


Mrs. Ghidorah has a favorite cow's stomach (the second one, if you must know). Organ meats had a resurgence in Japan a while back, and you an find restaurants selling horumon all over. Basically the same as yakiniku/Korean BBQ, but I stead of thin slices of meat grilled at the table, it's assorted organ meats, especially various parts of intestine, liver, kidneys, the whole thing. Personally, I'm a big fan of kashira,which seems to be meat from a pig's face (but not the jowl, which is also amazing).

All of this, and I used to keep kosher. My first encounter with this stuff Watson a sort of date, and the girl was with took me to an izakaya. She ordered the food and played the "here, try this,but I forgot the translation" game. That's how I had grilled pork tongue for the first time. About halfway through chewing, she told me "it's pig tongue" with a big laugh. Years of not eating pork warred inside my mind with the realization that what I was eating was absolutely delicious.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:30 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


For the wedding reception in my wife's village in Malaysia, a buffalo was slaughtered. Most of the meat went to the reception meal, some choice parts went to the uncles involved in the slaughter and butchery, but nobody wanted the hide, so my mother-in-law put it up on the tin roof of the copra-drying shed.

A little less than a year later, my wife and I are back in the village to deliver our first child. MIL decides this would be a good time to cook up some cowhide. It is retrieved from the roof, as rigid and hard as a plank of wood. I saw it into strips using a carpenter's saw, with great difficulty. That night it hits the table: the hide is rubbery and tasteless but the turmeric and coconut milk broth tastes as good as ever.
posted by BinGregory at 11:48 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Western Me: What's this?
Hong Kong Her: It's something from inside a pig.
Western Me: Oh, OK.
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:04 AM on August 22, 2013


Charlie don't surf:

my grandfather was also a big fan of Prairie Oysters. No doubt this was an eccentricity from his days as a horseback range rider for the USDA in Colorado. Any cowboy veterinarian
Best. Grandfather. Ever.
posted by Harald74 at 12:11 AM on August 22, 2013


The title of the book in the first link worked. I'm mad. Starving to death reduces your options. "Unmentionable" and the homophone "offal" are absurd terms. You eat what you have to in order to avoid death. My little cat Squirrley, who I love very much, will perish on the grill before I die of starvation [Which is incredibly unlikely as I live in the US].

The notion of "unmentionable" comes from the perspective of having a regular food supply. Unmentionable food is hiding yourself from God while eating an Ortolan in one bite. The above, eating dogs and cats and horses and testicles and rodents and insects and bung holes and reptiles and yes, people meat, is what we animals do when we are starving.

...

After composing my above rant and reading some of the reviews I did some searching in the book composed by Mr. Schwabe, eagerly prepared to find a bad person. His title cast the bait and I swam up from under my rock looking for something to bite and I found...nothing.

From the excerpts I've read and my searches on books.google this appears to be a thorough and excellent book and I seem to have lost all sense of irony.

Moose is good as a stew meat and quite lean, balls are yummy, gizzards are as full of flavor and as tasty as the sole of a shoe.

Nice post, thanks.
posted by vapidave at 12:15 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I eat a lot of stuff, but have hang-ups about blood and brains. Intellectually I know I'm being silly, but I'm not touching the stuff.

When I was a kid in Norway in the late 70s and early 80s, we occasionally had whale meat. It was inexpensive, and if you prepared it right it wasn't too bad. If you prepared it wrong it had a fishy after-taste.

These days we sometimes eat the unfortunately-named lungemos (direct translation: mashed lungs). Traditionally it comprises ground meat and fat stretched with heart and lungs, spiced up with ginger, clove, allspice and and nutmeg. We usually have it with potatoes, boiled vegetables and some pickled cucumber or beetroot.
posted by Harald74 at 12:24 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is moose unmentionable, BTW? It's the biggest game animal we have here in Norway, and the meat is lean and very tasty. The moose is a herbivore and I can't imagine anything in the moose lifestyle that repulses people (except if they object to meat in general).
posted by Harald74 at 12:29 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great timing! I just finished making a big vat of tripe in creamy wine and bacon sauce. It amazes me that people who can eat liver, kidneys and/or sweetbreads tend to turn their noses up at tripe. I think it's because most organs - when cooked - tend to look somewhat like "meat", but tripe (only honeycomb, not leaf or bible tripe!) still looks frilly and weird. Oh well - their loss. I'm going to eat it with a fresh sour-dough baguette to mop up the sauce and a couple of glasses of good sauvignon blanc.
posted by ninazer0 at 12:38 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah, lungenwurst. I'm not sure if that's the correct name for it, but it's what my father called it. Chopped up calves' lungs and rice, seasoned with lots of pepper, stuffed into a cow's bung and fried until crispy. Can't get it now for elven safety reasons.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:56 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lazy me. I said 'unmentionable' quoting from the title of the book even though moose are not mentioned therein.

I've cooked some moose meat myself and it's delicious.

I'm going to lie here and say that I made that error because Bullwinkle J. Moose and his companion Rocket [Rocky] J. Squirrel are icons of my youth.
posted by vapidave at 12:58 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not the most adventurous when it comes to eating, but I will try most things at least once. Blood sausage is definitely something I won't be trying a second time, but the Louisiana episode of No Reservations that showed the boucherie, damn, that's something I'd love to be able to go to. Just people who know what they're doing, and love doing it, making good food out of every part of the animal.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:37 AM on August 22, 2013


I can still buy a can of brains in my _one_ supermarket. I am afraid to try it on my own. Yet, I am curious.

My grandmother would pan-fry brains for sandwiches. Served with a little horseradish. My dad and grandfather loved it. It tasted ok, but there was definitely a mental thing you had to get through at first.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:30 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


> Believe me, hotdogs and bologna have much worse stuff in them than scrapple

I believe you. Also, I haven't had a hotdog in over ten years and am not planning to eat another any time soon. If I am feeling adventurous I watch a youtube on hotdog factory processing.
posted by bukvich at 5:07 AM on August 22, 2013


I know it's relatively tame, compared to other things in the list, but I can't do tongue. Beef, pork, whatever other kind of papilla-on-papilla action, I just can't wrap my head around am I tasting this? Or is it tasting me?
posted by cacofonie at 5:35 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm here for the longpig.
posted by gertzedek at 5:39 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


My grandmother would pan-fry brains for sandwiches. Served with a little horseradish. My dad and grandfather loved it. It tasted ok, but there was definitely a mental thing you had to get through at first.

I see what you did there.
posted by murphy slaw at 6:53 AM on August 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


I can still buy a can of brains in my _one_ supermarket.

Is it a small can of "Pork Brains in Milk Gravy," with >1000% of your daily recommended cholesterol? If so, I know exactly what you mean. I've never been brave enough to try it either, though I and some friends once tried to pass it off as a "smoothie" to someone, because the consistency is about right and because we were awful terrible people. That prank obviously didn't work though, since it has a particularly pungent room-clearing odor. An odor I am smelling right now, actually, thanks to the subtle sadism of memory.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:38 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in the Ugandan town of Masaka during grasshopper season, which was quite something. Many rooftops had oil drums sitting on them, a sheet of corrugated iron sticking out of each. The idea of this was that as swarms of grasshoppers flew over the town, those that flew too low would smack into the iron and drop stunned into the oil drum, where they'd later get deep fried and sold in bags on the street corners.

I sadly never managed to try fried grasshopper while I was there - the only time I was in the town at the right time, I was feeling extremely ill for other reasons and not at all adventurous. Apparently they're very tasty though - crunchy and floury like decent fries should be. I'd love to go back there and try them properly some time.
posted by ZsigE at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2013


Tongue in a vinaigrette, eating cold, it's quite a delicacy here. I love it. Never could enjoy kidneys or brain though, they taste pretty bad to me. Never got the courage to try tripe or similar. On the other hand blood sausage (more exactly, morcilla) is heavenly when properly grilled over coals. There's a kind of (pig I believe) brain "cheese" sliced for sandwiches and such occasionally in our local supermarkets, I also couldn't enjoy the taste. I recall my grandpa was crazy for the thing. As a country we don't eat much sea stuff (it tends to be very expensive), I haven't ever dared try anything weirder than sliced calamari though and I found it disgusting. There's no way I would eat insects or snails knowingly, the mental barrier would have me instantly barfing them back, I suspect.
posted by Iosephus at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2013


Best. Grandfather. Ever.

LOL I am sure I have described elsewhere on mefi, some of his tales about range riding and taking statistics of disease in cattle herds. He told me about how he carried a portable handheld Hollerith key punch device, and pressed keys to encode statistics on paper cards. Then every week or so when he rode past a city with mail service, he'd mail the cards back to the USDA home office. So I always envisioned cowboy veterinarians as carrying a Winchester, with a keypunch in one saddlebag and scalpels and knives in the another.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Geez, another thread about Hannibal? Come on people, enough is enough.

(KIDDING I LOVE THAT SHOW. Season 1 DVD set will be released September 24th for those who missed it on TV.)
posted by ErikaB at 11:11 AM on August 22, 2013


ninazer0: "Great timing! I just finished making a big vat of tripe in creamy wine and bacon sauce. It amazes me that people who can eat liver, kidneys and/or sweetbreads tend to turn their noses up at tripe. I think it's because most organs - when cooked - tend to look somewhat like "meat", but tripe (only honeycomb, not leaf or bible tripe!) still looks frilly and weird. Oh well - their loss. I'm going to eat it with a fresh sour-dough baguette to mop up the sauce and a couple of glasses of good sauvignon blanc."

And you are going to email me some right away. Leftovers is okay.

Is this where I tell my raunchy joke?

I'll eat ANYTHING once (true as true can be). If you don't believe me, I can introduce you to some ex-s.
posted by Samizdata at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


ZsigE: "I was in the Ugandan town of Masaka during grasshopper season, which was quite something. Many rooftops had oil drums sitting on them, a sheet of corrugated iron sticking out of each. The idea of this was that as swarms of grasshoppers flew over the town, those that flew too low would smack into the iron and drop stunned into the oil drum, where they'd later get deep fried and sold in bags on the street corners.

I sadly never managed to try fried grasshopper while I was there - the only time I was in the town at the right time, I was feeling extremely ill for other reasons and not at all adventurous. Apparently they're very tasty though - crunchy and floury like decent fries should be. I'd love to go back there and try them properly some time.
"

I have had them. They are.

Also, seasoned ground earthworm makes for a lovely pizza topping.

Also have done prairie oysters and hog fries. Yummy,
posted by Samizdata at 12:33 PM on August 22, 2013


About the weirdest things I think I've eaten were both at a dim sum place in Chinatown, in the company of my Irish friend's brother and some of his friends. He looked me up when they were all in New York once and I ran with them for a day.

I was kind of looking forward to it, because he's a bit more of a foodie than my friend is - he and his wife honeymooned in Hong Kong, and they were all excited to try Cajun food and stuff in Chinatown.

But I learned that while he was adventurous, his wife...not so much. So he hadn't actually tried some of the weirder stuff in Hong Kong. But was excited to try - the others meekly asked for things with chicken or pork or other identifiable foods, while he and I rounded things out with congealed duck blood and duck tongue.

It was the duck tongue that gave us the most pause - it didn't taste bad, but there was some crunchy bit in the middle. We kept giving each other puzzled looks and finally talked about it - "you noticed that crunchy bit too, right? I don't get it, is that a bone? Tongues don't have bones, do they?" And he and I spent a good minute or so eating tongue after tongue, with brows furrowed and staring into the middle distance, trying to figure out what the hell that crunchy part was - before his wife gently suggested that maybe we ought to stop.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:04 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a fairly picky eater who can't stand anything slimy, gelatinous, or rubbery, this post gives me the creeps. In an "I can't stop reading it" kind of way. Vat-grown meat can't come fast enough for me!

Though I have eaten both alligator and rattlesnake meat. And moose. Not bad.
posted by lovecrafty at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


charlie don't surf: "Around here, the Amish produce a lot of Scrapple, made from the worst bits of the most awful offal. It's the stuff they can't use in any other form, not even to make glue."

Oh boy, this is not true. Listen to 445supermag. And hey, ask your local Amish scrapple-makers what they put in it, they'll tell you. They'll probably say boiled head, ground hearts, liver, trimmings from butchering other cuts, maybe some fat or skin, collagen from the bones.

I don't know what these super-horrible "worst" bits of the animal are supposed to be. You can dislike the taste or texture or amount of preparation required of some parts of the animal, but it doesn't make those body parts evil or anything.

Personally, I do not like the kidneys of any animal and won't eat brain or chitterlings. My enthusiasm for tripe, liver, tongue, testicles, and gizzard depend a great deal on the type of animal and skill of the cook; I've had both fantastically delicious and unpalatably blecch experiences with them. And ohh, sweetbreads, heart, marrow, and anything made with blood...what a revelation, where have you been all my life.
posted by desuetude at 3:50 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the excerpts I've read and my searches on books.google this appears to be a thorough and excellent book and I seem to have lost all sense of irony.

vapidave, I'm pleased that you changed your mind about "Unmentionable Cuisine," and I think you're in accord with Schwabe as far as the culturally-/self-imposed limitations on what we consider as appropriate food. With Fisher, too: "Schwabe sums things up neatly in his last sentence: 'How ironic it would be, in this scientific age, for mankind to starve largely because of a bunch of old wives’ tales, irrational beliefs, silly associations, and the lack of a sufficient spirit of culinary and gustatory adventure.'"

As for me, I am not a particularly adventurous eater. But I have learned how to process poultry, and which bits to put aside for use in stock; I feel guilty about the bucket of entrails, but console myself knowing that it's gently composting under a pile of organic waste. There is something beautiful and purposeful about these innards. They are packed into the bird just so; they have their own unique shapes; they have a shiny health to them. I wish I could will myself to eat more of them, but then there's that whole lack of sufficient spirit...

[Also, yes to the moose and squirrel; that was exactly the joke that was on my mind. Why the hate for snakes? That's not me, that's a riff on Indiana Jones!]
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:04 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ambal: a kind of sea worm that lives in a case. Good stirfried with turmeric and coconut milk. But then everything is good stirfried with turmeric and coconut milk.

Those aren't worms, they're jackknife clams! Aka razor clams. Pretty huge in HK, steamed with a bit of scallion & garlic and absolutely delicious. I've seen them sold live here in Toronto as well.
posted by tksh at 5:59 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to try some fresh clams some day. Even raw. I know I like clams enough other ways that I suspect fresh would be quasi-orgasmic.
posted by Samizdata at 8:08 PM on August 22, 2013


I know I like clams enough other ways that I suspect fresh would be quasi-orgasmic.

I have had fresh clams.

They are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 PM on August 22, 2013


I did a gig in Puerto Rico one time, and as is the custom of my partner and I, we made friends with the people we were working with. We went out to eat with them at the local cafeteria style joint they ate lunch in every day. They were a little amused with the linebacker sized, long-haired computer dude from the mainland, so they wanted to treat me to lunch on our last day there. Thus, I was presented with a local specialty, mofongo.

Now, I'm a picky eater. If it doesn't look good, I really won't want to eat it. Plus I'm not really adventurous when it comes to food. Meat and potatoes, please. Keep in mind this was a cafeteria-type place, so when they put it in front of me, it looked more or less like the photo in that article, except you could still see the impressions made by the serving scoop. Needless to say, mashed something of unknown provenance? No thank you. Except…

My mind brought forth one of the foundational myths of my family. In the '50s my grandfather worked in Saudi Arabia, and my father, uncle, and grandmother lived there with him. In the course of events the Arab men who worked for my grandfather held a feast in his honor and Grandfather brought my Dad along. They cooked a goat. They brought out the tray with the rice, beans, and goat, including the head, from which everyone eats communally with their hands. Dad remembers this as being pretty good.

Then, at the climax of the feast, the host rises and intones words of honor and hospitality. He explains that, as the guest of honor, my grandfather is entitled to the eyes of the goat. At which point the plate with the eyes of the beast they had just consumed is placed in front of my grandfather. No garnish. No sauce. No embellishment of any kind. Just rolling around on the plate.

Grandfather looks at this, rises and says, "I thank you for this feast and the fine hospitality you have shown me and my family. I am moved by your choice to honor me with the eyes of the goat, and with love in my heart I pass this honor on to my first born son." At which point he pushed the plate, with the eyes still rolling around on it, in front of my father.

Dad, being a dutiful son and a student of the culture in which he was growing up, knew that he could not refuse. So he did what he must, although he of course swallowed it whole rather than chew it. Thus, though he has in fact eaten a goat eye, he still has no idea what one tastes like.

So, looking down at the local favorite, then back up at the expectant faces of my clients, I could almost hear my grandfather say the words, "…I pass this honor on to my first born son." I put my fork into the unappetizing looking mess, soft and yielding, striking a morsel of some kind of meat. I hold my breath and put it to my lips, worried that I might wretch…

And that was the day I learned that mofongo is mashed plantains with bacon and actually tastes pretty damn good. I still think it looks like hell though.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:28 PM on August 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Just to throw this out there: Mrs. Ghidorah's favorite place near us does a lot of 'parts' type stuff. Fish that most places don't serve, all kinds of stuff. She always orders the fugu-skin in ponzu sauce (I, uh, pass. It's like eating rubber bands in ponzu). Every once in a while, the owner/cook will check our reactions on a dish to see if it's something he'll carry, or just as a 'hey, look what I found' sort of gesture. For her birthday a couple years ago, he gave our group a nice big plate of raw horse liver.

I'm a big fan of raw horse (basashi), but the liver was a bit of a challenge. The inside was just like what you'd think raw liver to be. The edges, though... kind of a cartilege-esque chewiness to it. Not something I'll order again.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:29 PM on August 22, 2013


fresh clams

I'm confused. Is there some other way that clams come? Like, I dunno, in a can or pickled in jars? Apologies if this seems weird, but I live in a country where clams are always sold live.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:38 PM on August 22, 2013


Samizdata: Leftovers? Never heard of them. Some kind of weird hipster thing is it?
posted by ninazer0 at 12:41 AM on August 23, 2013


I tried chicken's feet once (at a dim sum place in HK.) Couldn't finish it. I know it's popular but...

Natto (Japanese fermented soybean) is usually difficult for most non-Japanese (and even many Japanese to be honest) but I'm a fan.
posted by gen at 1:37 AM on August 23, 2013


I tried chicken's feet once (at a dim sum place in HK.) Couldn't finish it. I know it's popular but...

Cultural conditioning.

Chicken wings are OK, chicken's feet are not.

Baffling.

Question: what chicken parts go into making a can of chicken soup? Hint: it ain't breast of chicken.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:04 AM on August 23, 2013


I'm confused. Is there some other way that clams come? Like, I dunno, in a can or pickled in jars?

Yeah - we have a bit more between the two coastlines here in the U.S.A., a lot of shops will have canned clams (as in, shucked, cooked, and then taken out of the shells and canned).

And even in the case of "fresh" clams, there's a difference between "dug out of the sand and eaten an hour later" and "dug out of the sand, put on ice, brought to a fish market and sitting on ice for a couple hours, and then brought to a fish monger's where it sits on ice for another couple hours and then finally purchased and cooked, 18-24 hours after it was dug up". I had a lot of visits to my grandparents' which usually involved fishing and clam digging, and we ate what we got that same day - now I'm in New York, where I can find fresh clams in fish shops but they've usually had a sit in ice for a while, and even just those few hours makes such a big difference that I rarely eat seafood any more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:23 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've eaten a lot of different foods that I found enjoyable: Dog meat, cow testicles/stomach, chicken feet/heart/gizzards, lengua, tripa, buche, fermented horse milk, sea cucumber, and uni. But, I just didn't find silkworms tasty. I still remember how it has a mouthfeel and taste like bad shrimp: crispy on the outside, goopy on the inside.

Maybe I should try eating bugs at least one more time, but silkworms ruined it for me.

I'd rather eat balut than silkworm. And the only real issue I had balut is the feathers. It makes my throat uncomfortable.
posted by FJT at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just read this super-creepy story about a woman who ate a not-quite-dead-enough squid that attempted to inseminate the roof of her mouth. Ewww.
posted by Toekneesan at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have kept Schwabe's book on my shelf for years as a reminder that my first negative impulse towards a food is usually a cultural response that I can rethink and change.
I have eaten grilled rat and loved it. Snails, grubs and grasshoppers the same.
A few weeks back I cooked an antelope heart feast for me and a buddy (one stewed and served with gravy over egg noodles, two of them ground and cooked with garlic and green chile, tacos de corazon molida. A meal I have dreamed about since.)
I have eaten just about every part from every domesticated animal on the average American farm; hearts, tongues ,brains, testicles, kidneys, thymus, intestines, blood, marrow, liver, feet, lips, etc. All tasty and palatable.
But you know what food I didn't like?
Do you know what food made me feel physically ill?
Durian.
I feel stupid for even saying it. I know I need to eat it a few more times before I give up on it. But I tried it plain. I made it into an ice cream with coconut milk.
But that taste . . . it tasted like onions that had rotted into a mush (albeit rotten onions mixed with a tasty, tasty custard).
Next time the wife is out of town, I think I shall try it again.
posted by Seamus at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am disappointed. I went to the store and no scrapple. I suppose I could find it in the store on the other side of town, where the Mennonites often come in to town and shop. But this is not exactly a product I am willing to go out of my way to locate. I actually would go out of my way to avoid this product, if I didn't figure you guys were curious about it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:09 PM on August 23, 2013


Whoops, I meant to link this clip of Dirty Jobs at the scrapple maker. He has to pick out little bits of fat that had previously been frozen and sprayed like ice shavings.
posted by planetesimal at 4:21 PM on August 23, 2013


I especially liked the part where they pump the spillage out of the drain and pour it back into the vat.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2013


Durian. Ha.

I was at a reading for Lucy Knisley's Relish, and a roomful of people with no problems talking about organ meats (mostly foie gras, to be fair) gave me the stink eye when I recommended the durian custard at Pok Pok Noi. It was like my wife's own personal anti-durian support group.

Me and my toddler love the stuff, though. You can get the frozen segments, rather than the terrifying monster-egg whole fruit, at any reputable East Asian market.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:40 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The durian I've seen in the US has been frozen at some point, even if you buy the whole fruit, and it changes it in some unknown way and it's not very good. Fresh durian in Asia is great, but one or two "cloves" and I've had enough.
Termite eggs in thai soups, yum. And all the bugs from the street stalls in Thailand. Ditto for chapulines (grasshoppers) in Mexico. Cow testicles on my wife's family farm in Argentina, absolutely delicious straight off the grill. Jellied eels in the old neighbourhood in London, when you can find them, fantastic.
But you won't catch me eating a Big Mac. That's some scary food.
posted by conifer at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a place in Kyoto, owned and operated by a hunter, and most of the meat he serves is something either he or another member of his hunting circle has killed. The boar is amazing, though I seriously cannot recommended the deer sashimi (remember the dried up stick of gum you got with baseball cards? And how after you finally broke apart all the rock hard chunks, it would soften in your mouth, but the consistency wouldn't be chewing gum, just this loose sort of goo? Deer sashimi.), but everything was great.

Until, since we were a group of foreigners and he wanted to see how far we'd go, he brought out the bugs. The fried bees were sort of gross. Very, very thin layer of crispness, just hiding a gooeyness reminiscent of pus underneath.

The grasshoppers, though. Having the rear leg of a fried grasshopper lodged between your teeth is very, very unpleasant. Hard to get out. Thicker than things that normally get stuck between your teeth.

I've eaten my bugs. Didn't find them to my liking.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:33 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a pescetarian, but I'll try anything once, which is why I have eaten haggis. But the weirdest thing I've ever had was definitely still-moving sea urchin...diver pulled it out of the sea and cut it open with an ax and we ate it with spoons while its spines were still figuring out what had happened.

I like to pull this story out of my hat when people start giving me shit about how vegetarians are picky, nervous eaters. Just because I don't have any interest in eating the boring bits of a cow or chicken doesn't mean I'm not up for an adventure.
posted by town of cats at 9:00 AM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think I would pretty happily at least try some casu marzu, and I'd certainly eat many different insects if given the opportunity to by somebody who knew how to cook them, though I don't know that I would be able to get over my inherent squeamishness when it comes to fried arachnids. It's one of those "don't tell him what it is and he'll enjoy it" situations, but, I dunno, a spider is hard to mistake for anything else.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:29 PM on August 26, 2013


Puffin - Greasy, rubbery chicken marinated in old fish guts.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:47 PM on September 1, 2013


I knew A guy in college who would only eat meats that he himself had, at some point, taken part in the slaughtering and dressing. He ate fish and claimed that he would eat deer if the dining hall served it. One September, early in the semester, I saw him eating a hamburger. "Tim," I said, "you're eating beef. How did this come to be?" He smiled and told me about his stay at a ranch over the summer. It was an unusual rule, but no stranger than eating fish on Fridays during Lent.

Although my dad doesn't go out of his way to find unusual food, he abided by "take all you want, but eat all you take" credo he learned in the Marines. He used to eat kibbles of Purina dog chow just to freak out me and my brothers. He also giggled when seeing Robert Culp eating Milk Bones in The Greatest American Hero.

I'm willing to try most anything. Loved tripe when it came as part of Pho, but it may have been the Sriracha talking.

I'm one of those weird people who likes liver, especially poultry liver. Lover to make chicken liver paté even though it's a vehicle for butter and sherry. Love tomalley even though intellectually I know that lobsters are bottom feeders and the liver is where the toxic stuff bioaccumulates.

Oysters. Oh man, oysters. When I worked at Adobe, at one of the holiday parties, they had a raw bar with a chef shucking them. I must have cost the company a hundred dollars in oysters on the catering bill.
posted by plinth at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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