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Truth or Dare

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When I was a poor student, and living in Boston in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, I was fascinated by some of the offerings in the meat department of my local grocery, which include pig trotters and tripe. I had no intention of buying, cooking or eating such things; I was just intrigued by the fact that somebody clearly did. I figured that their children grew up happily eating trotters and tripe. I imagined them, around the table, calmly accepting an animal’s foot for dinner in the same way that I might have welcomed, say, pot roast or macaroni and cheese. I can write off that phase of insular thinking as the result of being very young, very white, and very suburban.

As an adult foodie, I am constantly reading about, or watching the consumption of foods that I am not sure I, personally, could consume. The difference is that now I feel as if I should want to at least have a “no thank you bite,” because otherwise how can I claim to be a real food person?

I have branched out into oysters, I finally tried gfelte fish this year, and I am game to try escargot, but that doesn’t take me far enough out of my safety zone. There are articles about the virtuosity with which various famous chefs prepare offal, and I wonder if I would be able to eat a lavender-scented lamb kidney bundled with some potato and tied up with a scallion. I also watch Alton Brown eat fried calf-brain sandwiches (apparently, a big thing in Indiana), and Anthony Bourdain eating intestines, head cheese, eyeballs, testicles and penises. Would I, could I, on a dare? Would I, could I, eat balls, rare?

I would not, could not on a bet. I would not, could not, dry or wet. I do not like them, foodie press, I do not like that offal mess.

So, that leaves me as probably what I really am: a narrow-minded, provincial, faux foodie person who might try the newest thing in cheese or hunt for the elusive mangosteen, but will not eat animals tip-to-tail. (It is very fashionable, just now, to consume tip-to-tail, and I genuinely see the argument against wasting significant amounts of an animal slaughtered to be eaten). Many chefs who I admire greatly would scoff at this pronouncement, and Anthony Bourdain would likely write me off as yet another uninteresting and uninterested American seeking nothing more challenging than the nearest Applebee’s. So I ask myself this: if I were actually given the opportunity to eat in Iceland with Anthony, or to have Thomas Keller prepare kidneys for me at The French Laundry, would I demur? Could I look such an icon in the eye and say “no thanks; I’ll just have the grilled cheese?”

I like to think that I would try. I really, really do. We may never know, but for now I am going to tell you that I want to do the right thing, even if its squishy and gross.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

10 responses »

  1. I lived in Japan for 5 years…. had many opportunities to go out of my Indiana farm girl comfort zone. I am glad I took most of them. I love sushi (actually sashimi-raw fish). They had some strange cold noolde dishes. Can’t remember the names of most, still glad I tried them. My children were very small and they love trying new foods. So get some balls…. and try ’em! You might even like ’em! Have a great day! Christina

  2. “I would not, could not on a bet. I would not, could not, dry or wet. I do not like them, foodie press, I do not like that offal mess.”


    I have eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters several time, and they are absolutely delicious. THE most tender meat EVER.

    I would not, however, under ANY circumstances, eat them raw.

  3. Eric Williams

    As a man, I have a hard time imagining that I could eat THOSE. However, I will try almost anything else. Alligator anyone?

  4. I think that every one has their own personal gag point. My husband is fairly game and has eaten many a thing in front of me that makes me want to puke without ever putting it in my mouth. Sorry. No way. I would not, could not. Ever. I’m perfectly happy in my protected little food world and I see no reason to leave my comfort zone. Not even on a double dog dare.

    PS If your site meter tells you I’ve been sitting on this post for 30 minutes or longer, I have to tell you that when I saw you had a new post, I went to fix a Bloody Mary to sip while I enjoyed. But, there were about 800 things (slight exaggeration) that got between me and that Bloody Mary, and ultimately, this post. Argh!

  5. Ann,

    Awful mess? At least foodies are openly discussing it. You get to make that educated choice. Truth in packaging.

    In the utilities business here in Florida we have a dirty secret, lovingly called ‘ toilet-to-tap’ reuse. What folks dont know doesnt seem to hurt em…….

    Guess it is whatever you are raised with………..

  6. imagineannie

    Chris, I do, actually like sushi. I know this is all a “mind over matter” thing; its not logical to find some things acceptable and others not just because of cultural indoctrination. If I try balls, may I at least start with cooked, as Katrina suggests?

    Katrina, okay, if they come my way…I’ll try.

    Eric, I have eaten alligator, also a bit of rattlesnake and some frog legs. I am not COMPLETELY backwards; I just have some odd reservations. Maybe therapy?

    Barbara, I find it tragic that something got between you and your Bloody Mary for that long – forget about reading the post! I am actually likelier than Mr. Annie to eat “gaggy” things (see Sushi, above) but I have limits. I am torn between the notion that I should try everything once, and the notion that i have lived to be this old and am no longer obligated to do what the cool kids do if I don’t feel like it. I hope it was a fabulous Bloody Mary; I’m jealous.

    Robert, you are right. I have learned a lot from what I have seen and read, and I think that in time, I’ll taste and decide what’s for me. As for the “toilet to tap” thing, do they do that everywhere in Florida? Like, do they do it in the places I go every winter? I’ll still go; I just want to know. I do assume its WELL refined in its journey from point A to point B?!

  7. well….i’m not torn between the notion of trying everything once or not. some things are not meant to be eaten…….period. the still beating heart of a cobra is one……calf brains are another. anything that looks like bait or chum should be used as such and not appear on my table at any time. so there!

  8. imagineannie

    jayedee, I think I’m probably in your camp. I DO eat lots of things that other people won’t even try, including sushi (which Mr. Annie believes to be bait and chum) but I can’t talk myself into other things. And do I really have to?

  9. Eric Williams

    Ann, I love your nod to Dr. Seuss. I have heard about this daring culture to bring offal to the mainstream, usually introduced under the less threatening subject of “delicacies”. I am not fooled. A long time ago I was invited to a Lebanese household in the Ivory Coast and tried (translated from French) 1)Moelle épinaire-spinal marrow 2) Cervelles (brains-not sure whose or what’s) 3)L’estomac de chèvre-goat stomach(very very spicy). I “gamely”(no pun intended) tried everything and unceremoniously “lost it” ten minutes later. I’ve changed since that moment. For the better, I’m convinced of it.

  10. imagineannie

    Eric, your story about the Offal Ivory Coast experience reminds me of being given tiny, whole fish with eyes intact by a Korean student I had tutored. She was so proud, and I just couldn’t refuse them. I believe in “when in Rome,” (or when in East Lansing with a big-hearted Korean woman) but there are consequences related to the connection between our brains and our stomachs. Its why I could eat tongue and think it was delicious until I found out what it was. We need re-wiring?


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