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I have no trouble with gamy meats like lamb or mutton. I love liver, kidneys, heart and blood sausage. I throw Vietnamese fish sauce around with giddy unconcern. And though I don't quite love what connoisseurs cheerily refer to as "stinky cheeses," I can tell somebody made them that way on purpose, and I've learned to appreciate them.

But when people serve tripe, I always expect them to start giggling and admit it was all just a joke.

I really don't get the point of tripe. It just smells like some low part of a digestive tract to me. Even frequent tripe-eaters admit it smells pretty foul--a lot of them cook the stuff out on their back porches so it won't leave a stink on their furniture, rugs, wallpaper and household pets.

And it has a thin, chewy, ungenerous texture, somewhere between latex and folds of boiled skin. I went through all that vile smell just for this? Hey, come clean--this was all a gag, right? You're going to bring out the real food pretty soon, right?

Under protest, I tasted this dish. I wouldn't drive across town to eat it, but if you put it in front of me, I guess I wouldn't object.

If you think you hate tripe, try this recipe; the tripe comes down to little more than wonderfully chewy texture with a subtle flavor sitting in the midst of lots of sweet, caramelized onions. Who could resist it?

PAUL BOCUSE'S LYONNAIS-STYLE TRIPE 2 pounds prepared honeycomb tripe 5 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced 5 tablespoons unsalted butter Salt Freshly ground pepper 10 sprigs parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar Slice tripe into 3x1/4-inch long strips.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until lightly browned.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil with butter over high heat in separate large, heavy skillet. Add tripe. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until tripe is browned and crisp. Add onions and cook 2 minutes more over high heat. Pour into serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Pour vinegar into hot skillet and simmer briefly, over medium heat, scraping pan with wooden spoon to detach browned bits from bottom. Pour over tripe and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Prepared tripe can be found in many markets. Should you find only uncooked tripe, prepare it a day in advance. Rinse tripe in several changes of cold water. Plunge into large saucepan of boiling salted water and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Place in saucepan of simmering water along with bay leaf, celery stalk and onion stuck with clove and poach at gentle simmer for 2 to 3 hours until tender. Rinse under cold water and drain. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight, pressed under heavy weight.

Each serving contains about: 365 calories; 123 mg sodium; 169 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0.50 gram fiber.

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