I’m a vegetarian, at heart.
Ah, but there’s my problem. I mention ‘heart’ and immediately begin salivating about a lovely stuffed and roasted lamb’s heart: plump and juicy with a mouth-watering raisin, breadcrumb and herb filling, mmm.
I’m not so sure my wife was impressed when I presented it to her as a Valentine’s Day meal – a heart on a plate. Was that stating my undying love a little too literally?
But I applaud those who live the vegetarian lifestyle. In fact, for a good decade I was one. The trouble was meat always tempted me. That old adage about bacon sandwiches being the vegetarian’s downfall is a particularly accurate one.
The day came when I couldn’t hold out any longer. I was holidaying in
, which is perhaps the least vegetarian nation on earth. Menu choices read something like, ‘roasted meat, fried meat, grilled meat, meat of the day, or a green salad if you are a sissy!’ I ordered duck confit and devoured the succulent shreds with relish (that’s enjoyment, not chow chow) while riverlets of shiny fat ran through my beard. France
So ended my life a la vegetarian. But I still had to reconcile one of my main beefs (if you’ll pardon the pun) about meat eating. The waste: that vast proportion of an animal that is discarded while we nibble on the prime cuts. If I were to eat meat regularly then I was going to eat all of it. Roasts, steak, trotter, ear, cheek and fetlock and that’s not even getting to what would soon become my favourite parts, the innards.
My descent into the gluttonous heaven, or hell, of eating what us Brits call ‘offal’ started innocently enough with a bet and couple of fries. The bet, made by my pal Lancton, was that we couldn’t eat fries.
But these weren’t the crispy golden slivers of deep fried potato that you’re thinking of. Oh Nooo! ‘Fries’ is the polite moniker given to the certain part, or parts, of a male yearling sheep’s anatomy that hang between its legs.
Bolstered by the knowledge that fries are a delicacy in the
Middle East (or so the butcher told us, funny smile he had on his face at the time, though) and a healthy swig of Dutch courage (read vodka) Lancton and I set about the fries – testicles, if you will. First, we skinned each one (cue pursed lips and crossing of legs by male readers), then marinated, sliced and finally fried them. There were jokes made; about them not needing salt… Male bravado, to disguise our trepidation at what was to come.
When the time came we both drained the last of the vodka, cut into our sliced testicles and bit down hard… We needn’t have. The meat was tender, not unlike a scallop, and mildly flavoured, like the sweetest liver you’ve ever eaten. “I’ll be damned!” exclaimed Lancton. “Sheep bollocks taste great.”
And so began my journey down the least trodden path of carnivorous delights.
Now, while eating innards is not de rigueur in Haliburton, I have had the pleasure of trying local game in the form of moose, venison and duck since moving here. You see, to me, wild meat has something about it that the reared product lacks. That taste of danger, that whiff of “Whoa, that thing could have torn us apart with one swipe of its antlers”, that lingering shout of, “Feck, you nearly blew my head off!”
And so, I looked forward with eager anticipation to the HHOA Game Dinner: the chance to taste almost every animal that walks or swims through my garden, apart from the neighbour’s German Sheppard, that is. Unfortunately, fate was not on my side and so I have yet to sample the delights of beaver.
And, while I ponder wild meaty delights, I might hesitate at chowing down on a pair of bear’s balls. I’m not sure I know of anyone with a pair big enough to go out and get me some anyway!