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Memories of an Offal Eater

May 23, 1991

How I enjoyed the issue on the Fifth Quarter (April 18). What memories of wonderful food rarely tasted these days.

My mother roasted fresh tongue on a thick pile of chopped onions. Those onions cooked down to a near puree of caramelized sweetness suspiciously like some recipes in Michel Guerard's "Cuisine Minceur."

My German mother-in-law cooked fresh tongue with vinegar, brown sugar, raisins and ginger snaps--instant sauerbraten. That thick gravy was best sopped up by dark bread speckled with caraway seeds.

This last fall in Paris, two blocks from the Champs-Elysees, in a restaurant filled with business people, my daughter and I had a splendid lunch that consisted of tiny cubes of pickled tongue and pickled onions in a vinaigrette with brown lentils. That has to be home-cooked peasant food--although at $130 for the two of us, the price may not have been for peasants.

During World War II, a happy coincidence brought my husband and his best friend home on simultaneous furloughs. Along with best friend's wife, of course, we happy four went to Lindy's on Wilshire Boulevard for dinner. Steak was a house specialty.

We sat in one of the green-and-white-striped cabana booths facing the street; the waitress apologetically explained that meat rationing meant she could serve only two steaks to a party of four. Allocation of the prime choice went by default to my husband and the friend's wife. True deference and position in the pecking order. This has been a private joke for decades. But truth is, I don't like steak and prime rib. Liver steak, such as the one I enjoyed that night, is no longer found on local menus.

Liver steak falls in that "you can't get that anymore" category. Thick-cut calf's liver, from the kosher butcher. You had to pre-order--he only had this choice morsel once a week, and a calf's liver is small. Forget chopped liver, that with chicken and too much fat. This was cut thick and broiled rare-ish. The thick pieces currently available in most markets simply cannot be broiled that way.

Wonder what kind of memories will come forth from the microwave?


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