Sunday, February 11, 2007

Just Offal

Now that I shop on foot at Twin City, I have become much more exposed to cultural preferences for food other than the muscle meat that many older Americans grew up with.

Pot roast, pork chops, roast chicken, leg of lamb – quite familiar, even for those of us who went vegetarian in the 1970s.

Some of us even remember being forced to eat liver for health reasons in our youth.

But tripe, cow spleen, unmentionables? Not on my childhood menu!

A recent revelation of how other people eat came after a family from Central America moved into our six-family and soon wafted the aroma of mondongo throughout the building.

This is a breakfast dish involving tripe, or as described in, “The rubbery lining of the stomach of cattle or other ruminants, used as food.” Cow or pig feet may be added.

There is a venerable Bessie Smith tune called “Gimme a pig foot and a bottle of beer.” I have never heard a musical tribute to tripe, but there was a boy band in the 1980s called “Menudo,” also the name of a Mexican tripe soup akin to mondongo.

The “meat” in our household is likely to be chick pea patties or other vegetable mixtures in lieu of hamburger. Only recently has my son decided he could stand to eat a center-cut pork chop occasionally, which has led to my new scrutiny of the meat cases that I have ignored for years. Some of the stuff displayed in shrink-wrapped trays is shocking to me and proves that in most countries, every last bit of an animal is prized as food.

Since shopping at Twin City, I have bought a tostonera and now know how to make tostones out of green plantains, with a sauce of olive oil, garlic and lime juice. Red beans and rice has always been a staple dish in our household and we have added “Moros y Cristianos” made with black beans. I still have to learn what all the big yam-like vegetables are and how to cook them.

But when it comes to ears, snouts and offal - I’ll stick with falafel!

--Bernice Paglia



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