A few weeks ago, Kate and I went for dim sum with some friends. One of our friends is of Chinese descent and remnisced about when her white Canadian husband first met her somewhat traditional Chinese parents and he was served gelatinized pig trotters and chicken feet. Much hilarity ensued as the guy bravely tucked into his meal.
Offal, sometimes euphemistically referred to as variety meats, are the bits and pieces of animals that today you don't see much of in the meat counter of your local supermarket. They harken back to a day when people were frugal and every part of the animal was used to feed the family. They include such things as tripe, liver, kidneys, brain, sweetbreads, testicles and on and on. As a kid, I remember my mother used to make steak and kidney pie, which I really liked, until I found out what kidneys were. Then not so much. Liver was then, and remains today, a form of torture. Even turkey giblets, which I used to really like when doused liberally with salt, I cannot bear to look at let alone eat.
About the only offal I care for today is foie gras, which I recognize is very politically incorrect of me, but which I just can't resist when I see it on a menu. It is the crack cocaine of organ meats - irrestible in its rich lusciousness.
Author and one time chef Anthony Bourdian often writes rhapsodically about offal. Celebrity chef Mario Batali is apparently also an officianado of animal entrails. I consider people who cook and eat these meats on the same level as I consider those who choose to go over the Niagara Falls just for the funof it. That is to say, brave with a perhaps a dash of insanity mixed in for good measure.
I would love to hear from all of you about your experiences with offal, what you like and dislike, and your thoughts on food taboos in general.