“ I’d rather not know until afterwards” declared Trish.
I was still at Kadie’s in LA, and Trish, her sister’s girlfriend, and I were sitting at the dining room table discussing icky foods.
“Really?” I asked astonished, “ I don’t agree at all.”
We both agreed that mental attitude, coupled with a culturally established palate are the two main constituents contributing to the likes and dislikes of certain foods. For example, it took me a few years of wine drinking to find my taste for stinky cheeses, and though when sober, I find it hard to stomach the idea of eating steak or tuna tartar, after a glass or two of wine I actually quite enjoy it. But more specifically, Trish and I were debating the best way to challenge these unfounded food objections. Is it better to be aware that you are eating the loathed food, or ignorant of it?
“ I would rather know what it was that I was eating, even if it was something I deemed gross” I insisted.
Kadie, who was getting ready for dinner and simultaneously ease dropping on the conversation interjected with a shout from her bedroom, “I say, ignorance is bliss!”
Validated, Trish continued
“What if you were about to eat tongue, how would you keep an opened mind if you knew it was tongue?” she asked pursing her lips and twisting her head to the side clearly repelled by the thought.
I thought about the first time I laid eyes on that gray, dry, grainy looking organ sitting on the counter beside the pastrami at the kosher deli were we would get sandwiches when I was a child.
“ Do people really eat that?” I asked my mother with an equal measure of revulsion and delight. My mother looked at the undesirable meat, then tugged me along, clearly disgusted and annoyed.
Trish sat patiently awaiting her answer.
“ Easy,” I said with a smile, “booze.” We both laughed.
As we got ready for dinner, Korean BBQ, I thought about our conversation. Was there ever a time that I unknowingly ate something I though was icky? I suppose so, the first time I ate Caesar Salad I had no idea the dressing had anchovies in it - an ingredient that I had never tasted but was certain I’d abhor. Once I learned about the anchovies it was too late, I had already developed a liking for Caesar Salad; there was no going back. Perhaps Trish and Kadie had a point.
All seven of us, including two friends who had just finished the AIDS ride from San Fransisco, rolled up to the restaurant starving only to find that we were in for a long wait.
“Great, we are going to wait all this time, then when we finally get a table we are going to have to cook the food ourselves, sounds like a scam to me,” I said to Trish, jokingly.
“Man, this is gonna suck!” she replied.
I couldn’t tell if she was joking.
Three quarters of an hour later we sat down at our table and within moments the waitress was unloading tiny dishes of food otherwise known as banchan. These are the tiny side dishes that accompany the meats and rice. Kadie pointed out some of the banchan and explained.
“This is Kimchi, fermented and pickled vegetables, this is tripe, steamed cow intestine…that one,” she pointed at a brown gelatin substance, “I don’t really know what that is.”
After the previous conversation, I felt it was my duty to try at least one of the two substances. I pulled a tiny piece of tripe onto my plate, dipped it in the provided sauce and bit in. It didn’t taste pungent at all, like I expected. It was chewy like squid yet more textured. Though it tasted just fine, when I was done with my piece I happily moved on to the kimchi, after all, it wasn't INTESTINE.
Before long the waitress was delivering platters of beef, chicken, shrimp, and a thinner brisket type of beef. The grill in the middle of the table sizzled as we threw the meats on, followed by fresh garlic cloves and jalapenos peppers. It was a blissful frenzy of eating and grilling, grilling and eating. Empty banchan plates were cleared and new ones were set down, including a savory flan like dish, and a beef and quail egg soup.
“ Here Madeline, would you like some more of the thin beef or the thick on?” asked Kadie’s mother as she unloaded the grill.
“I’ll take some of the thin one, I like that one better.”
She slid some onto my plate and the frenzy continued.
“You know that isn’t beef.” Kadie said from the other side of the table, “its tongue. One of the meats on the all you can eat is marinated tongue and that’s it,” she said pointing to my plate.
I stopped chewing for a moment, and turned to face Trish who was now laughing. My chopstick was frozen midway in its journey to my now silent jaws. I swallowed the tongue that was currently in my mouth, “ well I guess I like tongue then,” I confessed before popping the next juicy morsel into my mouth.
Ignorance in this case, or The Ambush Method as I now like to call it, evidently worked better than the informed method. I only sampled one tiny piece of tripe, were as I eat heaps, and I mean heaps, of tongue. Its hard to say what the result would have been if the methods had been reversed, would I have only eaten a tiny piece of tongue if I had known what it was, would I have eaten a tone of tripe if I had though that it was squid? All I can say is that, though I am hooked on Korean style marinated tongue and will probably be ordering it in the future, I don’t think I will be ordering a tongue sandwich at the Kosher deli anytime soon.