Give It A Try
by Georgia Hardstark
I blame my mom and dad for my first foray into "gross" food. The argument against my parents can be made in one of two ways:
1. I was too young to understand that I was actually eating TONGUE. As in, the thing that's in a cow's mouth until it gets hacked out, thinly sliced, layed out upon a piece of rye bread, and garnished with a pickle.
2. Despite the fact that the name of the food in no way makes it possible for it to be anything other than explained above, I blame them for raising a child too stupid to understand literal terms until that fateful day as a six year old.
I strayed from my usual position in front of the bakery case at Canters to peruse the deli section while my family waits for a table.
reenactment, 20 years later
When I spot an enormous cow's tongue sitting innocently in the display case, trying to cloak itself in normalcy by being surrounded by more inconspicuous cuts of meat, something in my brain clicks. I still remember the sudden realization that, all those years, I had been putting in my mouth something that at one point could have tasted me back. When we're seated and it's time to order, I stick with matzo brei.
I'm not a timid person. I'm adventurous and of the 'life's too short' persuasion, which leads to boasting that I'll eat anything (anything that's considered "edible", that is). This has landed me in a few gag-inducing situations as well as a few instances where I almost had to eat my words (har har).
Gefilte fish: bring it, betch
Sometimes I miss the child I used to be. The girl who didn't question the origins of that which ended up on her plate, and instead consumed with glee that which her older siblings scoffed at. My painfully thin frame was deceptive of the actual amount of food I could consume.*
*Like my belief in the human race, my metabolism went out the window somewhere in my early 20's.
Chicken livers and hearts...my, those were tasty! Aside from the pate I may spread on a Melba toast or two during Passover, before being reminded of that god-awful dry, chalky texture, I tend to stay away from organs these days (although my grandmother makes a mean faux liver pate).
To me, this photo screams "palate cleanser, stat!"
My "I'll try anything" bluff was called about a year ago when, while dining with two friends at a "small plates" Japanese restaurant, they placed an order for ika no shiokara...or "home-cured, fermented, salted squid guts". It was written in plain English on the menu, so when I stuck my chopsticks into the slimy, bright pink pool of mushiness, I had the unfortunate knowledge of what I was putting into my mouth.
Now, before I go on, I want to make sure everyone knows I'm not making fun of anyone else's culture. As a Jew, I'm aware of the weird cultural gastronomic tendencies that our ancestors have been consuming for generations and how proud people are of their family's culinary history...but sometimes, it just doesn't translate. Take, for example, squid guts:
I'm embarrassed to say that while my friends consumed this dish with glee, later attempting to coerce me into eating more by proclaiming that "it's better with rice!", I had already secretly spit my mouthful into my napkin, and was chugging beer in a vain attempt at getting that god awful taste out of my mouth. Think "taking a shot of ocean water while being hit in the face with a fish," and you'll get the idea.
Likewise, when I was confronted with supposedly edible bugs while writing a piece at the Natural History Museum's bug exhibit, I had to stop at the "chocolate chirp cookies" (a clever way of saying "you're eating a fucking cricket"), or it would have been serious vom-time.
You'd think a girl who invented the McNuggetini wouldn't have any hesitation about eating bugs...you'd be wrong.
That's a fracking leaf-cutter ant QUEEN on a cracker and a meal worm which, despite what the cook's assistant said, does NOT taste like Corn Nuts.
I have a clear memory, from when I was about three years old, of a friend picking up a snail off the ground and popping it into her mouth, and the ensuing frantic attempt by her parents to retrieve said snail from my friend's mouth. It was not pretty. I'm guessing this is why, despite the fact that I've been to France twice as well as countless French restaurants in Los Angeles, I've yet to give escargot a try. I would, of course, if they were presented in front of me, but that hasn't happened yet.
In a "thanks but no thanks" moment similar to my bug-eating escapade: although I adore oysters, when presented with the largest oyster I've ever seen, one that would have taken at least five chews to be ready for swallowing (as opposed to the one or two chews of acceptable oysters), I passed. Same goes for the smoked oysters nestled in a rectangle tin and soaking in olive oil, that had been purchased from the 99 Cent Only store...but I don't think anyone would blame me on that one.
Georgia Hardstark is the contributing editor to This Recording. She lives in Los Angeles, and blogs here.
MARGOT AND ESCARGOT
"My Baby Shoots Her Mouth Off" - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's (mp3)
"Love Song for a Schuba's Bartender" - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's (mp3)
"Broadripple is Burning" - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
We never score a perfect 10.
You said what you said.
Try to use monohex in a sentence.