Organ Meats: A Primer

This entry is part 9 of 29 in the series Conversari


Pennsylvania Dutch used to celebrate Thanksgiving
not with a turkey but the stuffed
stomach of a hog.

When eating smalahove—Norwegian sheep’s head—
the ear & eye must be consumed while still piping hot,
before their abundant fat starts to congeal.

Belgians prefer their cow tongues warm
and their pig tongues cold
with a vinaigrette.

Testicles are among the most versatile of foods,
delicious sautéed & sauced,
fricasseed, battered & deep-fried, put in pies,
poached or roasted.
The penis, or pizzle, is mostly
just fed to dogs.

According to the Talmud, tractate Berachoth,
the spleen is the seat not of anger or melancholy
but laughter. The Greeks roast it
over an open fire: splinantero.

Eating humble pie originally meant
eating a meat pie made with umbles,
originally numbles: those glistening parts
in which no one takes much pride.

Sweetbreads, which are offal,
should not be confused
with sweetmeats, which are mere confections.

I hate your guts, we say
to someone so detested
even their innocent viscera seem repulsive.

The lungs when put
to culinary use
are called lights.


Updated 1/25/12 to add a new sixth stanza, prompted by a comment from rr, as well as a new eighth stanza.

Rachel’s photographic response: “Brain.”

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10 Replies to “Organ Meats: A Primer”

  1. Oh my!

    I fell from vegetarian grace recently and in the spirit of adventure had sweetbreads at a swanky restaurant. They were delicious as long as I didn’t have to think about what I was cutting into. Ho hum.

    Love the above Dave. Maybe we should consider it as a tailpiece for our ‘Bestiary’. (No I haven’t forgotten. Just been too overwhelmed with deadlines. Oddly enough it’s been on my mind a lot as I’ve worked on Marly’s ‘Foliate Head’ cover. Something about boiling down an idea to the bare-minimum image, clicks with what I’d been thinking about for the chapbook.

  2. Umble pie!

    “In the 14th century, the numbles (or noumbles, nomblys, noubles) was the name given to the heart, liver, entrails etc. of animals, especially of deer – what we now call offal or lights. By the 15th century this had migrated to umbles, although the words co-existed for some time. There are many references to both words in Old English and Middle English texts from 1330 onward. Umbles were used as an ingredient in pies, although the first record of ‘umble pie’ in print is as late as the 17th century. Samuel Pepys makes many references to such pies in his diary…”

    Numbles. Awesome.

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