I've been feeling really guilty lately about my inexperience with "weird" meats. Said experience overall has to be divided into two categories: pre-vegetarian and post--with a twelve year hiatus in between. Before I became a vegetarian at the age of eleven, I was a very adventurous eater as far as kids go. My parents never let me order off of the kids menu at restaurants, and I pretty much had to eat whatever my mom plunked down in front of me when we ate at home. Now, my mother has always been a good cook--but she didn't really become a gourmand until I left for college (dammit). So meals at the house were of your basic supermarket check-out line cooking magazine variety--inventive and better than anything my friends ate, but generally not too out there.
Anyway, so the first "weird" meat I can remember coming into contact with was tongue, albeit very flighting contact. My mother tried to hide the tongue underneath a burger roll, and claimed, when questioned, that it was meatloaf. Now, the most frightening thing about this was that the piece of meat sitting on my burger bun actually LOOKED like a tongue--complete with visible taste buds and a crease down the middle--so there was really no question about what it was, despite my mother's protestations. Of course, we refused to eat the tongue sandwiches and ordered pizza.
The second, shall we say, incident came when a neighbor shoot a moose. Now, growing up in the tundra, I have always had a soft spot for these gentle, stupid beasts. They seem more to me like something you might adopt as a backyard pet than something you would want to eat. Well in any event, there was dead moose to be had--and lots of it, so my family ended up with a share of three moose steaks. I think mom broiled them (it's the catch all cooking method for my people). Unfortunately for me, but luckily for the moose population, they taste like shoe. And not even nice shoes with soft Italian leather--no, moose tastes like barn boot. I don't think we'll be seeing moose steak for two at Les Halles anytime soon. I just can't blame my mother's cooking for this one...not even a butter, truffle, bacon sauce could have saved that meal.
Which brings me to the other side of the tofu fence. Since renouncing vegetarianism, I've eaten pates of all kinds (yum), kidney for breakfast in honor of Bloomsday (yuck), elk (yum), alligator (meh), and, last night, I gave tongue another shot. You see, there I was about a week ago out for dinner with some friends at a Mexican place in the West-ish Village called Cabrito, and there on the menu was my old muscle-y nemesis--this time in the guise of a taco not a burger bun. It seemed like the perfect moment for tongue and me to reunite, the taco was small, there were lots of other ingredients covering the tongue up, and I had been drinking so my inhibitions were lowered. Dear reader, I didn't order. And much to my foodie embarrassment, two of my friends were brave enough to order it! I had failed as an "adventurous" eater! The reviews? Friend 1: "It's good." Friend 2: "I wish I hadn't ordered tongue."
A week goes by and my guilt only increases, despite the lackluster reviews of my friends. How serendipitous that the special at my neighborhood bar last night was a tongue Reuben. Now, Rubens are my favorite sandwich, so here again I was faced with a perfect situation for possible enjoyment of tongue. I ordered it after some reassurance from the bartender that the sauerkraut cut the richness of the meat. So, how was it? It was rich and kind of greasy and I sort of wished there was more sauerkraut. I also wished I hadn't ordered tongue. Is that totally the tongue's fault? I don't think so. Might it have something to do with the faulty nature of a tongue Reuben? Probably. Will I ever order tongue again? Not if there's elk pate to be had.