Monday, April 20, 2009

More Pudding, Mom!

The old-time Italian men in my neighborhood were partial to dishes that looked like they came straight from the Hannibal Lecter cookbook. One can only guess how poor the people who first prepared these dishes must have been to use ingredients I can only describe as, how can I put this, disgusting. Certain parts of animals are generally not used in cooking, and with good reason. Those are the very parts that found their way into these recipes. There must have been some association for these men between these dishes and their dear departed Italian mamas in heaven; why else would they continue to eat them?

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. When you're poor and hungry, you need to improvise something nourishing and tasty for your family on a very tight budget. Italians (and other poor ethnic groups too) learned to cook some outstanding meals using stuff that others would normally throw away. I seem to recall that these delicacies were usually prepared around big holidays like Christmas and Easter. In those days, local butchers knew there was a demand for these bizarre ingredients at those times of the year, and always had them handy. They are not that easy to come by today; you won't find anything labeled "innards" or "offal" in Stop and Shop's meat department. Here's a whole dinner to tempt you:

Appetizer: Sufritto - This recipe begins: Take the liver, heart, sweetbreads and kidneys of a baby lamb or goat and cut into bite-sized pieces." Wait, where are you running? (You're back and feeling better I hope.) These tidbits are pan seared with some veggies and a half-cup of white wine. (Drink the remaining wine in the bottle to get up enough courage to eat this crap.)
Italian Family Dining: Recipes, Menus, and Memories of Meals (page 60)

Dandelion Salad - You know how crazy those ugly dandelions growing all over your beautiful green lawn make you? You've tried everything from expensive weed killer (kills the grass too) to digging them out by hand (you never get the whole root). Well I have a solution for you my friend that does not involve inhaling pesticides or a sore back. Do what the old Italians do...EAT THEM. Ciagottia Salad - Recipes -

Choice of Entree:

Choice #1: Capozzelli di Angnelli (Lamb's Head) - You read right bunky, lamb's head! This one's not on the Happy Meal menu. Preparation starts as follows: "Skin and clean the lambs heads and cut them in two." Are you still there? You might ask your butcher to do this for you unless you are a very disturbed person. After baking in the oven, I believe they join the two halves of the heads and serve them in a little herd on a large platter. The old timers (I swear to God) used to fight over who got to eat the eyes!
Italian recipes: Lamb's head

Choice #2: Trippa (Tripe) - This little number is the honeycombed lining of the first stomach of a cow. (There have been times at holiday dinners when I wished for more than one stomach, but I digress.) The recipe says it "...may be poorly suited to delicate digestions." Now there's an understatement. Maybe I'm missing the boat; could there be a franchise idea here? I have our ad slogan: "Udderly delicious." Trippa

Dessert: Sanguinaccio (Pig's Blood Pudding) - Any dessert whose list of ingredients starts out with1 liter of pig's blood has got to be special. I don't care how poor or hungry I was, there's a culinary line I won't cross and this is it! My Aunt Anna used to try to get me to eat this stuff by claiming it was chocolate, usually a sure-fire way to get me to eat anything. I was wise to her though ever since she got me to try "sweetbreads." Not sweet, not bread, don't ask.
Delicious Italy - Abruzzo black pudding recipe

It's interesting to note that many dishes like these, created by the poor out of need, sometimes become trendy and turn up on the menus of pricey Italian restaurants. That's right folks, the parts of animals that butchers throw away can be found in very tiny portions in the exact center of an over sized plate for the paltry sum of $40. To save you some money, I provided the recipe links above. Bon Appetit!


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The Whiner said...

Well that pretty much killed my appetite (and that's a mighty tough thing to do). Maybe I should read this entry before each meal...perhaps I'll lose a few pounds.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Let me know if it works. As for me, only one thing will kill my appetite...the grim reaper!

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

MY GOD! You brought back nightmares of things I had to eat!

Actually, I went to a German restaurant and ordered head cheese, not what it sounds like!

I will never complain again about plain old meatballs and spaghetti!