Friday, 19 February 2010

A fine tang of faintly scented urine...

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. [...] Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine." 
                                                                                                                                                     James Joyce
 It is difficult to mention my mother without appending the title 'a good Yorkshirewoman' to her name.  Whilst my parents,  as 1950s newly-weds, had escaped the blackened brickwork of Bradford for a slightly damp Welsh  bungalow with a view encompassing the entirety of Swansea bay, they remained shackled to their northern food culture.  Offal.  Lots of offal. Every which way of offal.  I hated offal.

As children my brother and I were never allowed to waste food and ate what we were given or got nothing.  At the age of eight, we were gifted with our first right of choice - picking one foodstuff that we would not be forced to eat.  My brother chose tomatoes and I, in my haste and hatred of it, chose liver.  With hindsight I wonder if I would have got it past my mother had I been cunning enough to say 'offal' thereby covering a multitude of 'inner organs'.  Somehow I doubt it.

And so it was that I was condemned to a life of pissy kidneys complete with tubey bits, tripe the taste and texture of a bath sponge left damp and mouldering in the corner of the shower, tea-time treats such as sheeps brains on toast in a white mucilaginous sauce,  and my least favourite of all udder.

UDDER! You shriek, vomiting at the thought. Yes, udder.  I have eaten udder - and more than once too. Served as oblong slab a quarter of an inch thick and fried in lard. You want to know what it is like but I can't tell you just how vile it tastes and smells because you have never eaten udder and never will and you are right not to do so. Now you know that forkfuls of udder have grazed my fair lips you will never want to kiss me - they are forever tainted by the uberous odour of udder.


  1. Oh I do love offal! Apart from brains...just cant quite. Look forward to more posts...altho i am more in favour of ordering 4 meals and splitting them between 3 plates .....

  2. As the eldest of 5 siblings - I understand the dilemmna, except it worked in reverse in my house - as eldest was always expected to acceed to younger ones demands and whims and keep them happy!

  3. A new blog: how delightful.

    I am with Mark firmly in the Hooray for Offal corner.
    Kidneys have always been a great favourite although not one I indulge that much any more.
    In Peru I ate hearts on skewers (could have been guinea pig hearts, I suppose) and chicken feet - which might be just a step too far: especially when gritty under the toenails.
    I have very much enjoyed the livers of squirrels
    Udder, however, is as yet uncharted territory.
    I wonder if M7S could include it in their sandwich selection?

  4. I'm amazed to have comments and so quickly too.

    Mark don't ever go for the 4th plate concept! Your children will never forgive you and they will write dreadful things about you in future.

    Zoe, the family pecking order in food is an odd thing. I don't know what the 'normal' order would be - just that I usually lost out! LOL!

    Hi James, I am pretty adventurous about food and will try most things although some, like andouillette, only once. Liver in its different forms of foie gras and pates is now more than acceptable but I have never been able to eat kidney even as cooked by a top chef. I googled udder and could find virtually no mention of it being eaten.

    Don't tell Martyn C. about the guinea pig hearts I think he is rather a sensitive soul.

  5. I think Mark has a different concept of 4th plate, one even the socks would approve of.

    I remember my first early sighting of tripe in Brixton Market. I didn't believe my dad when he told me what it was. Imagine my delight (!) to find that "tripoux d'Auvergne" is a speciality here!

    I avoid anything with visible pipes and tubes and can only manage liver as foie gras with a bit of guilt as a condiment.

    It does bear no resemblence to the gritty grey livers of school dinners.

    Ouf! Pleased we're having prawn curry for dins after all that!

  6. Oh goody, a blog about food. I am dribbling already.

    My mum hated offal* so we never had any. Strangely enough I now love liver & kidneys although the smell is a bit 'phew' but have never managed anything more adventurous. My staple meal as a student was a stew of ox liver, the bacon culled form a bag of bacon bits & a tin of cheap tomatoes.

    PS is mucilagenous the word of the week?

    *she loved tongue though!

  7. Ms B. you are always dribbling! Mucilagenous is must have word of the week being a combo of mucous and gelatinous or snot and jellylike which describes a lot of things.

    Mark D Doh! Fat Rascal is right my brain must have been switched off again.

    Fat Rascal - now I feel we really should have tried Tripoux d'Auvergne or tried the stuff from the famous tripe stalls around Florence market.. but somehow there is always something I fancy just that little bit more.

  8. I feel very sorry for you, I get very cross when I have to share a fruits de mer and don't get the biggest lobster claw.

    My mother used to make us share our food with my youngest sister when we were out, too, but she used to take the bits she wanted for her from our plates, so there were always howls of wrath as the bit we had been about to spear disappeared from under our noses.

  9. I used to work in a meat factory. The meat there was fine, but there was a sister factory next door which processed udders, livers, lungs and all those 'delicious' offally bits into pet food. Occasionally I had to test their raw materials and I bow to anyone who could eat udder. I can't face kidneys because of their urine tang, but udder with its scent of milk gone off...

  10. Jro - I believe it was no coincidence that the man I decided to marry would always ensure that I had the biggest lobster claw, or indeed the last rolo. My mum used to give everyone a portion and then just as you were thinking "Great I got a decent bit of cake" it would suddenly disappear from under your nose to have a bit sliced off to go on someone else's plate. I swear I ended up always gobbling food in order to have eaten it before it was 'vanished' from in front of me.

    HappyM - this is one of the things I don't understand. I can't find very much reference to anyone having eaten udder and yet it was obviously on sale in Swansea. I wonder if Mum was getting it from the pet shop?

    "Udder with its scent of milk gone off..." ugh.. now you're giving me a 'sick in the mouth'.

  11. What a joyous Monday morning discovery - the Sock has given birth to another bloggue. Good luck to it, and to all who sail with you!

    But offal? Fabulously, deliciously gorgeous. Real flavour, challenging textures, some amazing traditional dishes. We were fed tripe by my mother and also at boarding school where those few of us who liked it would wolf down the shares of the great majority of boys who loathed it.

    The best thing about the place where I stay in London - a cheap bed, too - is that they serve grilled, pissy kidneys for breakfast as well as proper kippers, on the bone and with their heads on. The hardest decision, always, is which to go for if I'm only there for one night at a time.

    Lambs' hearts in a rich casserle - or a roast ox heart, stuffed with thyme forcemeat -mmmm! Haggis (made from sheep's lungs,) sweetbreads -all fabulously tasty things. But I'm not sure I could cope with a cow's mammary organs - they would be an udder matter.

  12. OK proper kippers for breakfast is a nice treat particularly if away from home so you don't get stuck with the all pervading smell. Roast ox heart sounds very, very tasty. Haggis! Now you're really talking. I love haggis with neeps and tatties and a tot of peaty malt chucked over it for good measure.

    You will never ever get me to like pissy kidneys though!

  13. If I didn't know better, I would think we had the same mother! We, too, had a mother who couldn't cut slices of cake fairly in the first instance, so that the plates would be snatched back and the neat slices massacred to her satisfaction.

    I make stuffed hearts a couple of times a year, and also oxtail soup. Kidney pilaf is a firm favourite, steak and kidney pie... we eat an offal lot of offal!

  14. JD - I agree about the malt. If you can bear to do it, an egg cup of peaty, smoky Laphroaig (or however you spell it) works wonders, poured over the haggis.

  15. I'm not trying to make work for you - well, not really - but bearing in mind that you now have several hats, have you thought of donning your TV reviewing one and looking at the new Raymond Blanc series? It is splendidly comic, he drops everything he touches and his accent, whilst very endearing, is quite tricky to decipher if you are not paying complete attention. I thought at one point he said he was married to his gardener, but he was just saying her name, Anne Marie. At least, I think that was her name. Just a thought ...

  16. When we come to England to visit Malvern, we will be labeled as vegetarian. No more can be said without offending anyone.

  17. Just arrived and delighted to find a food blog! Wonderful!

    I have just trapped and killed a third grey squirrel in my back garden, so I now have 3, which should feed 2 of us. Sadly I can't get on with preparing it as the plumber is due and I think he might not appreciate the sight. I follow HFW's Squirrel Ragout recipe as broadcast on TV a year or two back. Delish!