Thought for food.
April 2, 2009 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Like eating brains? I know you do. Why not add some new dishes to your collection of recipes that use the "fifth quarter?"

Despite some negative cultural stereotypes, the practice of eating brains is common in cultures all over the world:

Kat-a-Kat is a traditional Pakistani dish containing brains
Maghaz Masala is an Arabic course
Here is a recipe for Toscano calf brains
In France they are known as Cerveaux
Chef Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo serves a popular lamb's brains ravioli
Sesos in Mexico
Some great recipes for Spanish Tortilla Sacromonte
Fried brain sandwiches can be found in St. Louis and the Ohio River Valley
Australian Slippery Bob
This recipe for carpetbag steak would be great with some brains subbed for the oysters
Here is an ancient Roman recipe for calf's brains custard
German brain soup and brains au gratin
Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian recipe for brain omelets
Vegan Mock Brains

You may be wondering if eating brains is entirely safe. Besides being high in cholesterol, the brain is the main area where prions known to cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathy congregate in the body. In cows it's called Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), Scrapie in sheep, and Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and other wild game. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Kuru are two forms of spongiform encephalopathy in humans. Kuru was intensely studied among the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea from the 1950's to the 70's and it was determined that the high instances of it in the tribe were due to their ritual endocannibalistic funeral practices. It has been posited recently that a resistance to prionic diseases may have been selected for in our ancestors, suggesting that cannibalism was not uncommon.

Also of interest to cephalovores may be the effects of aerosolizing pork brains and inhaling them, as were recently demonstrated in a pork plant in Austin, MN.
posted by Demogorgon (39 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
i'm quite partial to "brains fry" from my local pakistani hole-in-the-wall eatery. *yum*
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2009

also, "cephalovores"...gets me thinking: would a cephalopodocephalovore inherit any squiddy, octopussy or cuttlefishy awesomeness?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:31 PM on April 2, 2009

Forgot to mention Icelandic Svið.
posted by Demogorgon at 1:34 PM on April 2, 2009

I don't think this post is complete without a reference to those tentacle bearing villains, the Mind Flayers.
posted by demiurge at 1:38 PM on April 2, 2009

I have been having offal cravings lately.

Had a bun bo hue with cubes of congealed pork blood that was divine.
And some sweetbreads on a bone marrow risotto that was great

Brains are the one organ that I have yet to develop a craving for. Only a matter of time. This may be the motivator.
posted by Seamus at 1:40 PM on April 2, 2009

Cephalovore? I like! Thanks for the new word Demogorgon!

The cow brains that I've had tasted faintly like walnuts. A lot firmer than I had expected. Does anyone know if prion diseases are transmissible from spinal cord? That stuff's yummy, too. Less flavourful than brain, but it's got a slick almost crispy mouthfeel. From myelinated axons, I'd imagine.
posted by porpoise at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2009

great post, from title to tags to content.

still....ew. lambs brains ravioli? calf's brains custard? ...and from the comments: cubes of congealed pork blood?

please don't slip in that puddle of vomit on your way out. i'd hate to have a lawsuit.

posted by CitizenD at 1:47 PM on April 2, 2009

Your fifth quarter link throws my Fifth Quarter link into a whole new light.
posted by acorncup at 1:51 PM on April 2, 2009

You only think that your brain is a quarter of your weight because the corporations have injected it with saline solution.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2009

Whenever I go to an authentic taqueria (more and more rare since I moved to the Midwest), I order cabeza tacos, and let my dining guest think I'm eating brains until halfway through the meal when I admit that in the US cabeza tacos are mostly made with beef cheeks. If there's any eyeball or tongue or brain in there, I can deal with that, because beef cheek is delicious. Similar to braised oxtail.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:58 PM on April 2, 2009

I won't forget my time in Paris, passing by my local traiteur (at the intersection of Boulevard St. Jacques and Rue Royer-Collard) and seeing the little cerveaux en aspic in the window. Such dainty looking brains!
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 2:09 PM on April 2, 2009

For the cultured zombie.

Also, I think, being that I am a neuroscience student, it might be proper to at least once in my life try eating what I study.
posted by kldickson at 2:09 PM on April 2, 2009

My hillbilly grandfather used to fix me scrambled eggs with calves brain for breakfast. I liked it.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:11 PM on April 2, 2009

D. Morgan Allen lived down the road from my parents. His house was up a holler in Jackson County Tennessee and he had been born and raised in that house some 75 years ago. He was deaf and blind in one eye, he'd say; "My dany eat th bwains, bu I non't like 'em" He would make a motion with his left hand palm up like he was holding a mess of pig brains.

He and his wife (everyone called her Miss Ivory) lived in a small shack that had a spring feed pipe that emptied in his kitchen sink, ran into the sink and back out again down the hill.

His kids thought he and Miss Ivory were getting to old to be by themselves way out there in the woods, so one day the Allens auctioned off 124 acres of land mostly good for timber or hunting and not much else.

Those hills are straight up and down. You can't grow corn on them. But they did for years, acres of corn plowed by mules. You can't get a tractor up that hollow, but you can get a team of mules up there.
Well they sold that plot and moved up on highway 136 and into a little house with electricity and a indoor bathroom, hell Ivory didn't even have to wash clothes by hand anymore with that old ringer washer.
When Ivory drove D. Allen down the creek road they would pass by the old place. They could see across the creek the old house sitting alone in the holler. I found out later from Ivory that " D. would start into crying, ever time we took the creek road."
Six months after they'd moved D. Allen passed on. Ivory still lives just off of 136. Reading about pig brains made me suddenly remember them. I think I'll go see if she's put out her garden yet.
posted by nola at 2:21 PM on April 2, 2009 [7 favorites]

One of my worst childhood memories: flipping channels and seeing Jeff Smith, the frugal gourmet, sauteeing flamingo brains. (Maybe it wasn't really flamingo brains, but it was really super gross.)

And that Jeff Smith guy catered my parents' wedding and delivered a eulogy at my graddad's funeral. Seeing him fry brains--actual goddamn brains--on TV sort of threw my whole juvenile worldview into turmoil.

Eew, brains.
posted by Neofelis at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2009

I'll think that I'll continue to operate under the notion that the natural squeamishness against eating brains is indeed some kind of evolutionary protective measure.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2009

Also, I think, being that I am a neuroscience student, it might be proper to at least once in my life try eating what I study.

I couldn't agree more, but I it seems like I'd need more than one rat brain and edible human brains are pretty tough to come by.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:38 PM on April 2, 2009

also, "cephalovores"...gets me thinking: would a cephalopodocephalovore inherit any squiddy, octopussy or cuttlefishy awesomeness?
posted by UbuRoivas

You're not allowed to think (out loud) anymore. Brain-eating octopi are pretty much the most nightmare-inducing creatures I can think of.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:40 PM on April 2, 2009

If you're in Paris and you want to have some excellent calf's brains, check out "Chez Denise" (also known as "A la tour de Mont Lhéry") on rue de Prouvaires near Les Halles. I've never tried the brains (I always get the haricot mouton or the tripe in calvados sauce), but I've been told that it's delicious.
posted by LMGM at 2:46 PM on April 2, 2009

Eew, brains.

Even though you don't appear to fit his primary gender preferences, Neofelis, those brains may have spared you some uncomfortable moments:

In January, 1997, national news stories reported that Jeff Smith was named in a sexual assault and sexual harassment suit involving seven under-aged boys. ...

...Jeff Smith paid three million dollars to a young boy over the allegations...

Smith's attorney denied all allegations.

posted by jamjam at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2009

Juliet Banana: Living in Mexico, my understanding was that "tacos de cabeza" are always made from the meat on the head, mostly the cheeks. "Lengua" is tongue, and "sesos" are of course brains. I've never heard "cabeza" refer to brains.

While "taco de ojo" is mostly metaphorical, "to eat an eye taco" is to have a good look at something pleasant, often an attractive woman, I think the actual food does exist.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2009

Why can't we have some guts?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2009

Also, Portuguese scrambled eggs and brains, which I grew up on.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:58 PM on April 2, 2009

So this post's not about The Books, then.

Also, nice use of the brainsbrainsbrains tag.
posted by nzero at 2:58 PM on April 2, 2009

Brain-eating octopi are pretty much the most nightmare-inducing creatures I can think of.

om nom nom nom ...*mad octopus disease*...OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:25 PM on April 2, 2009

Wow! Now that's a Metafilter post. Right on Demogorgon! Flagged for awesome.

I found a NYT article on goat meat yesterday and was considering using as the starting block for a food related post like this one. I don't think I'll bother now because I don't have the dedication to match this level of depth and breadth and once you've seen it done right it's kinda shameful to go ahead and do it wrong. So for anyone who's interested here's an article on the growing popularity of goat meat, which is delicious. (the meat, the article doesn't really have a discernible flavor)
posted by Bango Skank at 4:04 PM on April 2, 2009

Coincidentally, I blogged a recipe book this morning. It contains a beautifully illustrated Sheep's Brains - Morningside.
posted by tellurian at 4:11 PM on April 2, 2009

Wadsworth: And monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington D.C.
Mr. Green: Is that what we ate?
[makes a retching sound]
posted by crossoverman at 4:14 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

So far my attempts at eating brains have been thwarted. Most often it was just restaurants that listed 'em on the menu but didn't actually have 'em in the kitchen. The last time I was in NY, though, I got sesos and cecina mixed up and spent the week trying to work up the nerve to order brains from the grotty little taco joint on the corner before realizing that they weren't brains anyway, just salted beef. Kind of a let down, since by then I'd decided that hygiene be damned I was gonna try the damn things.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:23 PM on April 2, 2009

I like this post very much.
posted by brain_drain at 5:15 PM on April 2, 2009

One of the strangest recipes I've ever seen was for imitation brains in a Chinese vegetarian cookbook.
posted by chiraena at 5:54 PM on April 2, 2009

Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples contains a recipe for calves' brains that sounds utterly delicious. (She describes their texture as "pillowy," which sounds a lot nicer than "slimy," the adjective I normally associate with brains.) I think this may be more a testament to her talent for description than proof of the inherent tastiness of brains, but who knows.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:13 PM on April 2, 2009

We used to have a microwave with a setting for brains in parsley sauce. No one could quite work up the nerve to press that button.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2009

Bango Skank: So for anyone who's interested here's an article on the growing popularity of goat meat

According to that article goat is the meat eaten in the greatest quantity worldwide.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:44 PM on April 2, 2009

Yeah I read the article. Maybe I should have said "the growing popularity of goat meat in places and among audiences where it wasn't previously popular." But I kinda thought that would be implied by the fact that it was growing in popularity.
posted by Bango Skank at 8:09 PM on April 2, 2009

Just be careful eating brains.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:30 AM on April 3, 2009

I ordered something in a French restaurant that I thought was veal in caper sauce, and the waitress said "Are you *sure* you want that?" and I said "Sure I'm sure". And then she brought me brains in caper sauce. And you know what? it was just like the brains my mother used to cook. Delicious.
posted by acrasis at 5:00 PM on April 3, 2009

Rule of thumb: if the waiter asks you whether you're sure you want it, you want it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:08 PM on April 4, 2009

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