Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Awful Offal Adventure - Calves Liver

The “offal issue” has been popping up a lot lately.

David has been on a tear to get us to eat organ meat. To inspire me, David purchased “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and surprised me with it (It came with a fetching note that said “To the most wonderful cook in the world, from her loving husband oxoxo – how sweet!) and Nina Planck’s book “Real Food” (It was from the girls and the note said, “Mummy, you cook the yummiest food ever. We love you. Lucy and Edie” – just darling). Most husbands use sweet notes and surprise gifts to get more sex. Mine uses them to get offal into his diet.

The only problem with David’s offal idea is that every time I even mentioned an organ-as-food in conversation, like “Honey, I was thinking about doing some brains in wine sauce for lunch tomorrow…” David would make this face that looked like he was mid-vomit.

I thought at first he might be doing it on purpose, but then as I started dropping offal into the conversation more regularly, I realized it was completely subconscious. So, I did what any self-respecting wife would do…I made a point of saying it every chance I got.

“How are we feeling about a brain omelet for breakfast this morning?” I said as he brushed his teeth. Vomit face.

“Did you know that kidney’s should be cooked until they are just pink inside,” I’d mention as he was about to put a spoonful of chocolate pudding into his mouth. Vomit face.

And while he was relaxing with a glass of wine and a nice buttery soft cheese, “Did you know that I can make heart kabobs with sheep hearts?” Vomit face.

It was comical and I felt a little like one of those people in the lab who kept shocking the monkey more and more even though they knew it was hurting him. Still, the mid-vomit face was not enough to throw him off the trail. He was chasing vitamin A like a greyhound chasing a rabbit at the dog track.

“Let’s do it,” he said, calling my bluff one day.

So, dutiful wife that I am, I surprised him with some calves liver night before last. Not terribly exotic but I thought a good, harmless primer on offal. I bathed the thing in lemon (hoping to smother the liver flavor, but apparently lemon doesn't do that) and decided to go with the guy who knows offal better than anyone (that’s a compliment really) – Mario Batali. I love him, but not even Malto Mario could pull this one out of the hopper for the Foster family. I did his Calves Liver, Venetian Style or as Mario calls it Fegato alla Veneziana and believe me, it sounds better in Italian.

Now, let me preface this next part by saying that my husband and his mother are the best eaters in the world. I always feel like a chef when I’m around them because I can pull a dish together with two twigs, a sprig of parsley and some ketchup and they’ll eat like I’ve just handed them butter-poached lobster tails. They are my favorite people on the planet to cook for. To give you an even clearer picture, yesterday David told me that we had left some Greek yogurt in the back of the fridge and it had gone past the expiration date three weeks ago. He also confessed to me that he really wanted some Greek yogurt that morning and he simply ate around the “green parts”.

Okay, so you see…my husband will eat anything and he has a stomach of steel. If he were stranded in the Australian outback, I am very confident he would drink his own pee and eat grubs and spit-fired Red Back Spiders until he was helicoptered to safety. I tell you this because it came as a big surprise to see my fearless, chow hound of a husband cower in front of the Fegato alla Veneziana.

Here is a little skit I wrote detailing our dinner conversation:

David: (Eyes like dessert plates) Look Lucy, Mummy made liver…It’s…yummy.

Lucy: Yummy for my tummy?

David: (Trying too hard) Oh yes! Very yummy….Did I tell you how yummy it was?

Lucy nods and looks at her father as if his head is spinning off his body. David begins to do a monologue about vitamin A and its impact on eye care in the United States and the Third World.

Kim: Okay, guys, let’s dig in…

David: Where are the vegetables?

Kim: What vegetables honey? I carmelized the onions and added balsamic…is that what you mean?

David: (getting a little anxious) I need vegetables, salad, anything leafy to cover this up!!!

Kim: Cover what up, honey?...The yummy liver?

We both look at Lucy and Edie. A silent parent dialogue has just taken place.

Kim and David: (sing songy and in unison) …the yummy liver

Lucy: Liver’s yummy!

David and Kim sigh with relief. Lucy is still toeing the party line. She tastes the liver, makes the vomit face (she looks just like her Dad) and spits it out.

David bolts up, rummages through the fridge and comes back to the table with an arm full of vegies and several bottles of condiments.

David: I’m not gonna get through this without a little help.

Kim is chuckling behind the napkin. Edie is holding a piece of liver in her hand but not eating and Lucy is practicing her knife skills on several pieces on her plate. She isn’t eating either. David, in an elaborate ritual, mounds vegetables around his liver and scoops various liquids and semi-solids into the vegies, while gently scolding Kim for not preparing more side dishes.

Kim: (now giggling uncontrollably) Baby, can I make you a salad? Or order you a pizza?

David: (looking bemused and squemish at the same time) Let’s just try this liver, okay?

David is smiling despite the big undertaking in front of him. He cuts a small, nearly miniscule piece of liver, soaks up the sauce, plops some onions on top and manages to pull in a veg or two. He gives Kim the kind of look men give their wives before they go off to war. Kim is now hysterical, pounding the table with her hand and Lucy and Edie are now giggling too and are staring at their father, waiting for him to put the fork full of food into his mouth.

He (finally) puts it in his mouth. The girls know we are on the precipice of something important. We all wait. For a moment, we think he might like it. David pushes it around his mouth and bobs his head up and down for Lucys benefit.

David: …yummy

Lucy smiles at me. She thinks her Daddy has lost his marbles. It looks like he might actually like liver. He smiles weakly, looks at me and is about to give me an approving nod until…the after taste. David makes big vomit face and chokes down wad of food in his mouth.

Lucy: Still yummy, Daddy?

She looks hopeful but we all know the writing is on the wall. Lucy and Edie decide to play with their toys in the playroom. Kim makes David and girls grilled Asiago and Parm sandwiches with spinach and tomatoes. She contemplates writing an e-mail to Mario Batali and asking him to come to their home with a bottle of Gripa and make them some offal they can really sink out teeth into.

That was the end of that dinner (and the end of my little skit).

See, the thing about liver is that the first bite tastes fine, but it’s the back splash of liver flavor that floods your mouth with this grimy, mealy stink that blows you off your feet. One minute you are sitting there innocently chewing a harmless piece of meat and the next minute the flavor hits your tongue and you feel like you’ve been blown off your feet by Harry Potter in a wand duel.

I will say this about my husband - he is undaunted by the experience.

“Maybe liver is just the wrong organ,” he told me later that evening, while thumbing through a magazine.

“Maybe brains or kidneys will taste better.”

He said this as if it were perfectly reasonable and made me realize what a positive and hopeful person my husband is...until a few minutes later when he must have thought better of it.

“Maybe you could buy some organ meats and chop them up in a sauce or in meatballs,” he suggested. "Sally Fallon says we can get the same nutrients that way as we can be serving it as a main course." He raised the magazine again and started reading.

"...just do it and don't tell us about it.”

xxxooo Kim



Homesick Texan said...

If you pre-soak it in milk or buttermilk, it helps with the flavor. Cooking it with bacon is also recommended. But that said, I love liver!

Kim Foster said...

Hey Tex,

I'll give the butter milk thing a try but you know we are still a little gun shy on the liver over here at the Fosters.

David and I rarely speak of "liver night" anymore. And when we do it's in hushed tones and, like Voldemort, we are not allowed to speak of the organ by name.

I'm thrilled to hear there are liver fans out there. If anyone has more ways to make it taste, well, edible, I'm all ears!

Thanks for writing!


Minka said...

I love liver -- prepared in any number of ways including: plain; with onions; with bacon; chopped. I think the secret to enjoying liver is to develop a taste for it when you are young. (I realize that does not help you and your husband one iota.) That said, I rarely eat liver these days. Given the liver's detoxification role in the body and all the chemicals that get pumped into beef and poultry, I think it would be wise to eat organic liver only. Hmmm, maybe I should head over to the food coop and buy some organic liver!