I’m sure it’s happened to you before. You’re sitting back, watching a show on Food Network or the Travel Channel, when a dish catches your eye. You track down the recipe, study it, then jot down the ingredients, determined to recreate it at home. The next day, you go to the grocery store and pick up the garlic, butter, pepper, sea salt, and thyme, and then swing by your local butcher only to be told they don’t have any fresh duck hearts. But maybe you might be interested in some frozen chicken hearts instead?
Seriously? The recipe is duck hearts on toast, not thawed chicken hearts on toast. You return home to swallow your bitter disappointment, along with an alternate dinner of pork belly, fried peppers, and radish and tomato salad.
Okay, granted, there may not be that much consumer demand for duck hearts, but I see duck breasts and legs on display so I have to wonder what they do with the hearts. And the rest of the innards (aka offal pronounced, appropriately enough to some, “awful”) for that matter.
There was a time when the consumption of animal organs was confined to those who simply couldn’t afford the finer cuts. But things have changed. In fact, you could say they’ve been completely upended. Nowadays, thanks to advancements made by the modern meat industry, most anyone can enjoy the choice cuts – or a reasonable facsimile thereof pressed into burger form, frozen, then flash fried for your convenience. Meanwhile, top chefs around the globe have discovered the versatility of such once-dodgy menu items as sweetbreads, lamb heart, pork cheek, and calf brain. Granted, these dishes aren’t for everyone but you might be surprised at the rising popularity of the likes of grilled beef tongue with mustard sauce or a fine cognac-laced rabbit liver pate. Last night, I was watching celebrity gourmand and world traveler Anthony Bourdain rave about one of the courses he’d been served at St. John Bread and Wine in London and I found myself thinking: “Yeah, that blood cake and fried egg DOES look delicious! The lucky bastard.”.
You know, it wasn’t long ago that I preferred my meat well done, my seafood cooked, and my squid in the mezzanine tank of my local aquarium. But times have changed and so have I. In some respects. And while you’ll never catch me bungee jumping or cave diving or dating a reality show contestant, there’s a chance you may come across me sitting down to some fugu shirako tempura, a plate of roasted bone marrow with parsley salad, or some crispy pig ear with salsa verde.
Just, apparently, not butter-fried duck hearts with thyme and garlic. Not anytime soon anyway.