Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Depression foods

Meesha, of Kansas City With The Russian Accent, mentioned beef tongue in an entry today, and it took me back to the 1970's, when Cliff worked in a country butcher shop and we lived hand-to-mouth. Or should I say paycheck to paycheck.

If a customer took his own animal in to be butchered, he got the whole animal: tongue, liver, heart, tail and all. However, if people went in to buy a half- or quarter-beef from them, the butcher shop kept all those things. Those parts of a cow or hog are called offal, which the butcher-shop employees pronounced "all-fall" or "aw-fall".

Anyway, there seemed to be an excess of organ meats at the shop most of the time, and we were welcome to all the liver, tongue, ox-tail, and even brains, that we wanted, at no charge. I will tell you that I only cooked brains once. I loved the taste, but somehow I couldn't get past the idea of what I was eating. Which is strange, considering it never bothered me to eat mountain oysters. (If you don't know what that is, check with mr. Google.)

Back to beef tongue: I had a big pressure canner, and the book that came with it explained how to process tongue. I'll admit it was a challenge to boil and peel the rough skin off the tongue (which you did before processing), but once you had it in the jar, that was the best sandwich meat you ever tasted!

We had ox-tail soup regularly back then, and liver-and-onions often. I rendered lard, which was actually the only shortening I kept on hand. Lard makes the best pie crust! We could have all those things at no cost. I milked cows and made all our butter at the time, too. All those foods probably contributed to Cliff having heart problems years later, but we sure thought we were eating high on the hog then.

I could eat all I wanted, and never gain weight.

Liver is on the list of things Cliff shouldn't have, especially fried; but I may have to buy a package this week. I sure would like to have some liver-and-onions.

I've just triggered another memory, a joke Cliff played on me when I was about six months pregnant with my daughter: Cliff brought home something packaged in white butcher paper, sat it on the table, and told me to check it out, that Richard (the boss) had given us a ham.

"Unwrap it and take a look," he said. "It's a nice one."

I loosened the butcher paper that encased it and found, not a ham, but a hog-head, minus the skin, staring at me. Yes, staring. Its eyes were still it its head. Cliff thought that was the funniest practical joke ever.

I told him, "It's a good thing I'm not superstitious, or I'd be worrying that you marked the baby!"

And that's today's trip down memory lane. Thanks, Meesha!

10 comments:

m.v. said...

It's called offal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offal

Usually tongue skin peels off like a sock after you boil it and then drop it in cold water for a few minutes.

Lindie said...

when I was pregnant with my first baby, the doctor told me I was low on iron. I craved liver and cooked it every day for lunch. In later years I used a recipe for liver and onions that included white wine in the onions. Haven't cooked it since I started having heart issues. Have chicken livers sometimes though!

The Guy Who Writes This said...

I doubt they sell brains anymore being the source of Mad Cow. Also organ meat like liver is iffy unless it comes from organic animals because the liver is where all those weird medicines end up.

Sugar said...

i have eaten all those items you mentioned. brains we used to eat scrambled with eggs. my fav was & still is oxtails or fried liver with onions. mountain oysters are yummy too.
never did like tongue.
huggies...

Rose said...

You made me lol when you said you only ate brains once and mountain oysters more often. That just seems wrong to me.
I have only had brains once, in Mexico City, at a French restaurant. I wouldn't mind having them again.
Never had mountain oysters...I have never seen them for sale in any store around here. Not many cattle in this area....none to be exact.
Never eaten tongue either...anything that peels off like a sock......seems wrong too.
One of my favorite foods I remember from my childhood was Fried Chicken livers with onions and apples....Yum...I think it is an old German recipe.
I have also eaten alligator and snake.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Beans (pinto are my fav) and rice we some of our $$ stretchers. I love liver and onions too and haven't had it in ages. Of course I always made gravy with it too. Loaded with iron though and my mom always thought we should have a dose of that regularly. The only time I saw a pigs head was when my folks had a pig butchered. Then we boiled it and took the meat to make mincemeat. It was good.
'On Ya'-ma

Leilani Lee said...

Mom used to make beef tongue -- you could buy it in the store back then; I've never seen it here though. I loved it -- once the bumpy skin was peeled. I have made head cheese several times from pigs we (and other people) have had butchered. Great stuff. Yummy.

Amy said...

living in the hispanic neighborhoods, the odd bits are easy to find here. Ryan won't go past the meat section during the holidays though. Pig heads staring at her... hee hee....

madcobug said...

I don't like liver and never tried brains and fried eggs but my grandmother used to have them the same day they butchered a hog. Never tried the mountain oysters. I did try a bit of tongue once that my GM cooked. Didn't care for it. I have eat some hog head cooked up into brunswich(spelling?)stew. Never liked what my GM called press meat. She would slice that up and put mustard on it for a sandwich. Helen

Rachel said...

OK, so I LOVE liver and onions, but that other stuff? YUCK! By the way, I think Dad *did* mark the baby. I'm weird, and now I blame him!