Monday, July 19, 2010

The Nasty Bits

I like the forgotten foods. The misunderstood foods. The bizarre, Alice Cooper-esque foods that tend to scare people off of them. The foods it seems no one else in my age demographic loves anymore. Foie gras. Pate. Sweetbreads. Marrow. Lamb brain.

There are other "normal" things I love with nearly unparalleled power-- cheese, Italian white wines, vodka, chocolate, fresh artisan breads, and, of course, beer. But while I can wax poetic about different cheeses and recommend the perfect pairings for a Vernaccia di San Gimignano or a what sort of sandwich you want to eat with a bottle of Magic Hat's Summer Wacko, these things aren't as compelling to me as "the nasty bits."

The thing with these foods is that yes, you can tell at one point, this was something very much alive. This was something that lived. If you're a soulless vegetarian, or, god help you, a heathen vegan, odds are, you're not going to understand this. I won't even ask you to. Mainly, because I've given up on people like you. But for the rest of you natural, I-understand-the-point-of-human-evolution-and-why-I-have-canine-teeth carnivores out there, here's the reasoning: These foods, these "nasty bits," are the taste of life.

As for you veggies, I'm ignoring you from here on out. Please never forget-- I am not called a "Kitchen Bitch" for nothing. Maybe you're asking, "Why the animosity?" Well, let me tell you a story: I went veg for two weeks my sophomore year of college. And I got sick. Anemically, dizzyingly, hungry-all-the-time sick. It was not from a lack of protein or a balanced diet-- I was eating eggs, nuts, tofu, lots of fiber, lots of iron-rich greens and doing vegetarian by the nutritionist's books-- it was because my body thought I had gone barking mad. I need meat to function and survive. I've never felt more weak, unenergetic, listless, and just plain grumpy and unsatisfied and starving as I did at the end of those two weeks. At which point, I went to the nurse and was told to start eating as much medium-rare steak as I could ingest. Best diagnosis of my life. Also, my ex is now apparently seeing a vegetarian. I don't know why you'd ever date someone who can't share your steak with, myself. To me, love is a shared slab of something bloody, and that's only halfway a euphemism for how love can dice you up better than anything else.

If what the Aztecs believed is right, when I savored lamb's brain delicately breaded in panko crumbs and fried at Bluebird Tavern, I was learning through the taste and texture what it means to appreciate that animal, and the unique knowledge that comes with that. While scooping out the marrow of beef bones in Florence, I was tasting the very essence of that bovine-- a cow grass-fed, treated with respect, not injected with god knows what; a very spoiled, very natural Italian cow.

Some people have-- excuse me, no pun intended-- a beef with foie gras and pate, as inhumane treatment of animals has been cited in the production of these delicacies. Hell, if you stuffed me every day with choice bread bits until I was obese, I'm sure I'd protest, too. Not so much, but I might ask you to substitute some croissant for the stale loaves. The thing is, you have to understand-- these are special foods. These are not foods that you are eating every night for dinner. These are foods that you have rarely; foods that you savor for special occasions. If you're
going to get up-in-arms about geese being over-fed, please, and by all means, turn your
attentions to the conditions that most of the commercial chicken raised in the United States live in, and then you can call yourself a hypocrite like I am.

What about these foods gets our feathers so ruffled about them, or like me, your appetite so whetted? Maybe it's the taboo feelings about them. Maybe it's the shock value. Maybe it's the primal urge to devour. Or maybe, just maybe, it's just the fact that they taste so. damn. good. in what can be such a very bland world.


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