Patsy Porco

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

Organ Meats, Caviar, and Escargot

In Food, Humor on April 22, 2013 at 2:09 am

My mother’s generation was big on serving organs for dinner. My mother said that her mother made the best kidney stew she ever tasted. My grandmother’s secret was to boil the kidneys, rinse them, drain them, and then repeat the process several times. This ensured that all traces of urine were removed. My mother never cooked kidneys, and nobody asked her to, after hearing that story.

However, we didn’t get off scot-free. Liver was a favorite of my mother’s. We had it often enough that I recall dreading dinners when it was on the menu. It was cooked with onions and eaten with relish by my parents. The rest of us ate it with ketchup—lots and lots of ketchup.

Every Thanksgiving, the gravy was made with giblets—those slimy organs that are found inside the turkey in a tea bag. My mother always removed the giblets once the gravy was made, but many of my friends’ mothers chopped them up and served them in the gravy. We all loved giblet gravy, until we found out how it was made.

I’m fine with organ meats, as long as I don’t know what I’m eating. I used to love liverwurst sandwiches. I brought them to school all of the time, and my friends were always jealous—except for the ones who had brought tongue sandwiches. Tongue was considered a delicacy in my neighborhood. I was always grateful that my parents weren’t familiar with it. Every time I saw a big slab of tongue with visible taste buds between two slabs of rye bread, I shivered. I truly would have rather starved than eat a cow’s tongue.

But back to liverwurst: my father was of German descent and he loved sausages and wursts of all kinds. (He even tried to pass off fried bologna as “flatwurst.”) Liverwurst was my all-time favorite until my paternal grandfather, Popeye, told me that it was made from liver. From that day forward, I could not eat liverwurst.

My husband’s Italian mother made blood sausages, but he wouldn’t eat them. Black pudding is popular in England, probably because “black” is substituted for “blood.” If my mother-in-law had called them black sausages, my husband probably would have eaten them—just like generations of children were tricked into eating brains because they were called sweetbreads.

Not long ago, I attended a birthday party for a native Russian. The food was wonderful and wildly varied, but caviar was the star. I grew up with a mother who loved shad roe (the eggs of shads, or river herrings), so it was natural for me to eat fish eggs. I eat regular eggs, so I have no problem with fish eggs. In fact,  I like caviar; it’s a good thing, too, because it was served on everything—on sturgeon, tuna, blini, toast, and ice cream. Okay, not on ice cream.

When the escargot was served, one of the diners urged me to try it, saying that it was “garlicky and yummy.” I took a tiny bite, but I just couldn’t swallow it. It was chewy, and all I could think of were the slugs in my garden, and the giant slugs that would come out at night and crawl all over the steps at my mother’s house at the Jersey shore.

My sister, the wife of the Russian birthday boy, showed me the secret to eating and enjoying escargot. She handed me a shot glass filled with vodka, and assured me that I would love eating slugs after a few shots.

It turns out that you can enjoy anything after a few shots of vodka. Maybe I’ll try liverwurst again.

Mattress Wrestling

In Humor on April 20, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Mattress CoverI just spent the last 45 minutes wrestling with my mattress. With my mattress, not on my mattress. I got to this low point in my life when I decided to replace our worn-out mattress cover.  When we bought it seven years ago, we were told that it would withstand a nuclear bombing but, just in case we exposed it to something more lethal, it also came with a lifetime guarantee. All we had to do was bring it back and get a new one, free of charge, as often as we liked. The same store also guaranteed our mattress for 25 years. When I asked for a hard copy of the warranty, I was told that I didn’t need one because they had a record of it in their database. Shortly after they delivered our mattress and mattress cover, they went out of business.

So, this morning, I went to the local big box store that sends daily coupons through the mail. I found a mattress cover that made big promises, but it also came with a big price. I opted for the most inexpensive mattress cover, rationalizing that all of them were probably the same. The only differences between them were the probably-false claims printed on the inserts. Now I know that there’s another difference—one type gets put on by pulling its stretchy sides down each side of the mattress; the other kind gets put on by inserting your entire mattress into it, envelope-style. Of course I had purchased the latter type.

At this point, I should have just taken it back. Our mattress is a pillow-top and weighs more than I can lift. It’s also a queen-size, so it’s hard to maneuver. However, I reasoned, if I were to return it, I would have to refold the thing along its original creases, which is no easy feat. I decided, instead, to put it on—by myself. I could have asked my husband for help, but then I would have had to endure his reaction when he realized that we had to shove our very-large mattress into an enormous zippered pillow case.

It wasn’t an easy task. I had to wrestle the mattress off the bed and stand it on its side and put part of the case on, then lie the mattress back down and wriggle both sides of it down as far as I could, then stand it up again and pull it farther down, then lie it down again and resume wriggling. This process was repeated a number of times until the whole mattress was finally covered. The last step was to pull the zippered parts together so that I could engage the zipper. This was when I heard ripping. The mattress cover was officially mine at this point; the store wouldn’t take it back now. I got the zipper together and pulled it up by the toggle. Just as I got to the end, the toggle broke off in my hand. The mattress cover was on, and it would never be able to come off. Ever. It was now a part of the mattress.

So, I got into the car, went back to the store and bought the more expensive, slide-on mattress cover to protect the pillow-case mattress cover that had just become part of the bed.

My husband knows nothing of this. Let’s keep it that way.

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