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Woodworking: Nothing to gag about, so, please hold your tongue

I recently read in the food pages of New York Magazine that beef tongue is all the rage these days. "CHOICE CUT"-- The scary old deli-case staple is the variety meat of the moment.

At La Vara's Spanish restaurant these serve it Minorca sty, braised in a stewy tomato caper sauce.

At Mile End Sandwich, they hot-brine calf's tongue, slice it paper thin and serve with onion-raisin marmalade on pumpernickel.

At a Mexican joint called Gran Electrica, they slap it into house made tortillas.

What's scary about tongue?

Curiously, in the provincial flyover village where I grew up, folks took beef tongue for granted long before the foodies of New York City developed an appetite for it.

For one thing it was cheap. For another it was versatile.

Our refrigerator almost always had a bowl of sliced and pickled beef tongue waiting to slap it onto a sandwich. Apparently that was true of little New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Minneapolis Tribune columnist Will Jones grew up there before I was born. He remembered that the reason he had trouble dating was that he had a reputation of taking his dates to a downtown bar and ordered up pickled tongue on rye.

"One for me, one for her."

Another reason we liked beef tongue was that it tasted so good. Unlike the Holstein T-Bones of my childhood, it was TENDER.

Still, when you mention beef tongue in some circles, you get responses like ISH, or UFF-DA, or JEEPERS.

My friend Al Sicherman remembered when his Uncle Morris came to visit at the Sicherman home in Milwaukee.

Al's mother, who was a high school classmate of Israel's Prime Minister, Milwaukee-born Golda Meir, invited him to stay for dinner.

Uncle Morris accepted and asked what was for dinner. Beef tongue replied Mrs. Sicherman.

"Oh, I couldn't eat something that has been in a cow's mouth," said the fastidious Uncle Morris.

"So I'll boil you an egg," replied his sister.

Tongue comes in many forms.

I especially like a kosher variety, in which the tongue is brined, then boiled, then stuffed into a can. One of my go-to friends when I wanted to learn about cured meats was Tiny Kliszcz.

We were both headcheese aficionados, another specialty meat which elicited all kinds of ISH and UFF-DA remarks from friends.

Tiny told me his favorite tongue preparation was smoked tongue, which he promised to treat me. Unfortunately Tiny died and I'm still waiting for smoked tongue.

Maybe, if I manage to get to Food Heaven where Tiny most certainly is, I'll get a crack at it there.

My favorite for a time was tongue prepared in the Scandinavian manner at Ingebretsen's Model Market on Minneapolis's Lake Street, where Bud Ingebretsen and Warren Dahl, simply brined and boiled veal tongue and sliced it for sandwiches.

And then my Beautiful Wife and I traveled to Portugal and ended our visit by staying at the royal hunting palace in the Bucaco National Forest. There, I ate it hot and sliced and slathered with port wine sauce.

M-m-m, Good! To steal from the Campbell's ad men.

I guess when it comes right down to it, Offal can be awful good.

Years ago, I was on assignment in Dundas, Minnesota. I asked a bartender where I could grab a sandwich at noon.

"No restaurants in this town," she said.

A farmer sitting next to me said he had to get home and make bull yearlings into steers. I'll bring in a pail if you'll fry them in the back room.

The bartender agreed and I was treated to my first plate of "rocky mountain oysters."

Delicious, except my photographer, who ate a bunch of them, then found out what they were and headed for the men's room.

Just last month, we dined at a fine restaurant in Minneapolis's warehouse district, the Eatery.

My hors d'ouevres was chunks of sweetbreads, otherwise known as an animal's pancreas, sautéed and dressed with clam sauce.

For the main course, I had spaghetti and meatballs. Sounds sort of dull, eh? Not so.

These meatballs were made of ground chicken and foie gras (fatty goose liver).

Wow. Even in New York City, they'd call that conspicuous consumption.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.