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Culinary Ramblings

By TanithT, Jan 11, 2012 | |
  1. TanithT
    I spent the morning idly poking at food blogs, mostly to put off the cleaning we need to get to today. Naturally I clicked on a few that included home slaughter experiences. The upshot is that I'm pleased that some folks are actually getting the gumption to do this thing, but they're missing some of the nicest parts because they report being grossed out by them.

    Among the yummiest bites to be found inside a bird are either un-laid shell-less eggs/ovaries or testicles, and those who waste either are very silly people. Lightly poached, these tidbits are fantastic, rich and creamy, and I wouldn't miss them for anything. Plucking poultry is annoying, but the tasty bits inside are a little extra reward that you don't get if you buy them pre-cleaned. It's no more than a small nibble, but it's a lovely one. Also, the blood. Spiced duck blood sausages are heavenly. If you enclose the head in a large plastic garbage bag and slit the throat, you can avoid all mess and also conserve this delicacy for culinary purposes.

    With larger animals, on the few occasions I've had to put down a cow that was in calf, the unborn fetus was nothing to waste either. Talk about meltingly tender meat. The Romans and ancient Chinese had the right idea on this subject, considering the meat of the unborn a great delicacy. It's amazing stuff, and a gourmet experience that no amount of money can buy. I was amused that the folks who usually watched me slaughter with nonchalance, even when I snacked on tasty bits without bothering to cook them first, were completely nauseated by my gleeful culinary plans for slow-steaming the unborn calf. And oh my, are they ever yummy. On the two occasions I've gotten my hands on this delicacy, I did it justice, once with traditional Chinese herbs and date paste, and once in the ancient Roman style with the closest analog to garum I could come up with.

    I don't know what is wrong with people who have food taboos. As far as I can tell, everyone seems to have them. Except me. From my vantage point, they strike me as utterly irrational. If it tastes nice and is not going to make me sick, I am going to eat it. I have no other criteria. I really don't care what it is, or what it used to be. It's food, and food is good. Food to me is also sacred, and spiritual, and respectful, and there is no better way to respect something than to appreciate it thoroughly.

    If you have weird, irrational, arbitrary ideas about what is food that are based on anything other than whether it actually tastes good, is safe and healthful to eat, and is nutritious, I am curious to know why. Is there a point to feeling that way? Where does this stuff come from? I don't really have a point of reference to understand why these feelings even exist, so if you do, please enlighten me.

    A few things do actually gross me out in a food context. Unhealthful contamination by decay or carnivore/omnivore fecal matter makes something look like "not food" to me even if it's normally edible. I'm fairly neutral on herbivore fecal matter and gut contents. I don't actually eat them, but they don't trigger any particular response in me. Highly processed food, especially cheap mass produced sweet things, make me go "ew". Something about the chemicals in them whispers, "this is not food, this is bad and disgusting, do not eat."

    A dish of roasted grasshoppers or giant water beetles makes smile and think about a nice sauce of peanuts, chile and lemongrass to enhance the culinary experience. Boiled opossum eyeballs are a nice tidbit; I generally do boil off the skinned heads for stock, and there's no point in letting a tasty nibble go to waste. Raw deer liver is very nice when it's warm and fresh; it's full of glycogen and quite sweet and good. Live waxworms taste like apricots when their warm and faintly fuzzy skin bursts on my tongue. It's all good. However, a Ding-Dong, Twinkie or Moon Pie makes me want to hurl, and I honestly do not think I could keep one down if I actually ate it. Just sniffing at them triggers primal "DO NOT WANT" responses in my brain.

    Granted, there are foods I do not like. Raw cow bile is used as a dipping sauce for meat in some cultures, so I tried it that way. It's okay, but too intensely bitter to be really palate-pleasing. I love bitter melon, so it's not that I don't like bitter flavors. I just don't care much for this particular one. I might work a small amount into a sauce similar to the Thai version sometime and see how that does, paired with cilantro, Thai basil and raw chiles. Pig uterus didn't do too much for me, nor did goat testicles and penis. They're protein and I'd eat them, maybe experiment with some different cooking methods, but the preparations I've tried haven't been particularly yummy. Boiled silkworm larvae and wasp larvae are fairly nasty in the canned version I tried, mostly because they taste canned. I'd like to get my hands on some fresh though, since I've really enjoyed all the grubs and caterpillars I've tried that way. I was neutral on dried caterpillar however. It's okay when cooked with peanuts and tomatoes, the traditional African way, but nothing to write home about.

    Boiled grasshoppers taste *exactly* like boiled peanuts. No joke. The first time I had boiled peanuts, I was like, "WTF? Did you know that this tastes exactly like boiled grasshoppers?" I find it freaking hilarious that there are probably some good old Southern boys who would shit their pants if they knew how close to identical the taste is.

    I'm actually pretty neutral/blah on boiled grasshopper and boiled peanuts. Present me with a bag of either one when I'm bored and/or hungry and they will probably start to slowly disappear, but I'd really rather have them roasted or fried crisp. Boiling just makes them pasty and soggy and does nothing much for the flavor. Given a pick between boiled grasshoppers and boiled peanuts, the bugs are lower carb and higher protein with no discernible taste difference, so I'll definitely take the bugs. Both are mildly annoying to shell; boiled grasshopper legs and wings can be prickly and sticky and fibrous and are worth picking off or spitting out to avoid mouth trauma. But when they are crisp fried or roasted, these can become the best part, crunchy and brittle and good, like bug-flavored potato chips made of protein and fiber.

    Sadly, both edible locusts and snails are basically nonexistent where I live now, so my fond memories of wildcrafting these delicacies are long past. I have some consolation in the brown slug population, though extracting a good meal or even an appetizer out of those is akin to cleaning tiny shrimp. It takes forever, and at the end of a lot of work, you have just enough to sautee in butter and garlic and cream and cover one piece of low carb toast. I'd give the strong edge to slug meat over snail meat in a pure taste test, but the cost benefit ratio is dreadful. Why, oh why, cannot my garden be infested by snails? I am forced to conclude that the gods must not love me enough to inflict a plague of tasty, tasty locusts upon me. Alas. What must I do to earn their sufficient regard, or their hatred?

    Meh, enough with the culinary rambling. It's just making me hungry for bugs, and I have too many good leftovers from dinner that deserve my attention. Time to stop procrastinating and clean the !&^%#@% place.

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