Brainspotting – The Eating Of Forbidden Meat
I don't know what it is about us Americans that makes us think we're better than everyone else. We infect the world as tourists and expect it to be some sort of Disneyland where everyone speaks English, is polite, serves Budweiser, and has a fully stacked snack bar. We think we can drop a bunch of troops somewhere, blow up some hospitals, and guarantee smooth sailing for oil tankers on their way back to the US of A, all in the name of freedom. We even think we can raise a cow from a cute baby calf, cut off its muscles with a chainsaw, and then throw the rest away to become pet food by-products. Not only is this practice wasteful, it embodies a paradigm smacking of self-congratulatory blowjobs and presents us a false cigar of progress; it is madness.
There are, however, some pockets of sanity in this country. The farmers market in downtown Los Angeles, heavily populated by Latinos on both the vendor and clientele side, champions a healthy array of variety meats, like buche (stomach), tripitas (tripe), beefheart, headcheese, intestines, blood, lamb heads, pig skin, eyelids, spinal cords, and just about every other animal part that doesn't end up smeared on the butcher's apron. Boring meats like chicken and beef flesh barely make the cut. Children and senior citizens alike stumble through thick haze and colorful booths enjoying burritos stuffed with things that most of us wouldn't even fish out of a clogged garbage disposal. These are people who know how to live.
I took my own journey into the heart of darkness to see if these normally discarded, anti-American meat products were actually foul refuse as proclaimed by my peers, or merely overlooked and misunderstood cuts, delicious and worthy in their own right. Seeing as how I'm currently underemployed, I could only really afford one flavor of terror. I chose what could possibly be considered the most foul echelon of the meat hierarchy: The Brain. And I wasn't going to wimp out either, I was going to buy it from the butcher, cook it in my own home, and eat it with my own silverware. I would go all the way.
Now before you gag and turn green, let me just say that there's no reason why the brain of a cow should be considered any grosser than muscles and fat, aka the steak, or the slaughterhouse sweepings that fill discarded intestinal wraps (sausage). Chances are you've even eaten brains before, albeit in small portions. It's all part of the slaughtering process. Prior to having their throats slit, cows are "stunned" by a bolt of air shot into the brain, which knocks them out. It also causes severe trauma to brain tissue, knocking tiny chunks loose, into the bloodstream, and right onto your dinner plate. Mmmm. Think about that next time you eat a burger.
I bought a quarter pound of beef brains from my neighborhood butcher, who could not hide his disgust and confronted me point blank.
"You're not going to eat these are you?"
Always have second thoughts about something that grosses out a butcher.
My quarter pound of brain was a cross-section, a vertical slice of life. Once transported home, the brain was soaked in cold water for a half hour to remove all traces of blood. I perused my inspirational collection of vintage cookbooks, the kinds with people in afros serving pot roasts on the cover. Passing over such Î60s classics as Scrambled Eggs and Brains, Brain Fondue, Brains with Brown Butter, and Bacon and Brains, I settled on Brains Fried with Seasoned Flour. I won't give you the exact recipe, because chances are most of you wussies couldn't even find a butcher shop, much less follow this recipe through. But to summarize, after soaking the brains, I blanched them, shocked them in some cold water, dipped them in a plate of salted flour, and threw them in a nice hot pan filled with a quarter inch of vegetable oil. The smells of serious meat filled my apartment and billowed out my window, causing excitement in the apartment complex one slum over. My neighbor yelled from his second story balcony.
"That sure smells good. You make enough for the neighborhood?"
"Sure, it's cow brains. Come on over."
"Sheeet. You can keep it. And shut that window while you're at it."
Developing a taste for brains means never having to share.
After the brains seemed good and fried, it was time for the plating. Using a spatula, I neatly plopped the chunks onto my dish, and garnished it with a bit of melted butter and some bay leaves. As brains are a red meat (I suppose) I served them with a 1996 Chilean Merlot from the vineyards of Concha y Toro, a smooth, fruity wine with a lingering finish, a perfect accompaniment.
Upon first tasting the brains, I was overwhelmed by the flavor of a slightly charred fatty steak that gave way to my teeth and released a wave of tender, juicy beef stock upon chewing. The consistency was somewhere between cooked mushrooms and fat, and wasn't altogether displeasing. While the thought of actually eating the brains of another living creature was nauseating and exhilarating at the same time, I tried to close my eyes and imagine nothing, think nothing, taste nothing but the food in my mouth. And it was OK. Now, I was pretty damn hungry to begin with (I didn't want anything in my stomach just in case it all came back up when the brains hit the skillet), but it wasn't too bad. Not the best, but entirely edible with only slight waves of nausea, which were mostly psychological in nature. But in the end, I survived the brains, nay, I conquered the brains. No, that's not quite right either. I accepted the brains.
So, as you pass through this world with your cut-off-the-crusts-and-throw-them-away mentality, remember that there are those of us who thrive on what you waste. We live in a country where we can afford to be stupid assholes because the consequences of our actions are rarely thrown back in our faces. But when the bomb drops, and packs of half-starved zombies start roaming the streets with sawed off shotguns and assault rifles, the ones who will survive won't necessarily be the strongest, just the ones who can eat the grossest things. Start training now. I'll meet you downtown.
|Sudden Death Publications (c) 2003|