Saturday, April 25, 2009

Disgusting Food

First of all, my deepest condolences to Gayle on the loss of her grandmother.  Our grandmothers are the grounding of our being.  My grandmothers have both been gone for over thirty years, yet they still affect me every day of my life, and I miss them.

And now if I may totally shift gears ...  Reading Chris’ and Marian’s entries below about Stargazey Pie made me think about all the disgusting dishes that have crossed my path over the years.  

My father thought food should be not just something to keep you alive, but an adventure, and if he could have fun with food and gross out my mother at the same time, all the better. He adored bringing home anything edible made of insects, and loved animal innards cooked in any fashion.  When I was a little girl, my father and sister and I sometimes sat on the couch and ate pickled pigs feet while we watched television (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree).  One of his greatest culinary coups was finding an African dish that called for a couple of sheep’s eyeballs.  Not that my mother would cook it for him. 

For many years, I owned a small import gift shop called “Celtic House”, featuring items from Scotland and Ireland.  I sold all kinds of things - clothing and jewelry, books and music, and food.  Now, nobody can come up with disgusting food like the Scots.  This is the function of a poor people, not to waste any part of an animal if it could be tanned, carved, made into furniture, clothes, or grease, not to mention eaten. 

Witness the Scottish national dish, Haggis.  Haggis, as most foodies know, is the ultimate expression of the sausage.  It is made of sheep’s lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys, minced and mixed with oatmeal and spices, then stuffed into the sheep stomach and boiled for three hours.  Eat it with “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatoes), and wash it down with a whole lot of uisge beatha (the ‘water of life’, better known to English-speakers as ‘whiskey’).

‘Disgusting’ is in the eye of the beholder, though.  Togonese people love to eat their rats, Australian aborigines love to chow down on grubs, and the Chinese love their dogs in a totally different way than Americans do.  Yet don’t try to offer a Hindu a hamburger or an Arab a pork chop.

So let us allow the Scots their haggis, Robert Burns’ “great chieftain o’ the puddin-race.”

We may think it disgusting, but it made them what they are, as Burns proudly asserts in the last stanza of his Address to a Haggis.

But take note of the strong haggis fed Scot
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clasped in his large fist a blade
He'll make it whistle
And legs and arms and heads he will cut off
Like the tops of thistles


Gayle said...

We were discussing disgusting foods just today, Donis. My husband is an adventurous eater. I tend to stick with the tried and true. I even stopped eating my once-beloved chicken livers when I realized they were chicken...livers.

Judy Alter said...

I stopped eating chicken livers--and only occasionally eat chopped chicken liver--because it's so bad for you. But I remember with fondness the lamb kidneys my mom used to serve. And one of my favoirte deli sandwiches is tongue. I think it's all a matter of what you've grown up eating. Although I hated liver as a child, now can cook it so I like it, but again it's so bad for you I never fix it--and few people I know would eat it with me. The other day, in an upscale restaurant, I did draw the line at Rocky Mountain Oysters, though I've had turkey oysters and thought they were good with cream gravy.

Dana Fredsti said...

I love haggis...and blood pudding. I just try not to think about the particulars of the ingredients.

I have never been able to eat tongue, Judy! The thought pretty much grosses me out!