Saturday, May 26, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Brains


     The eating of brains probably calls up a few cinematic images in most people, whether it’s the undead consumers of the “Return of the Living Dead” movies, or the creepy chilled monkey brains, served inside their owner’s heads, in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”  I’m guessing the reaction of the average person is revulsion at the thought of emulating these films, even if the brains in question aren’t human, or of another primate.
     However, throughout history, and worldwide, this organ has had its fans.  The biggest ones appear to be the French, Portuguese, and Greeks.  Species commonly eaten are cattle, horses, pigs, squirrels, monkeys, chickens, goats, and evidently, in parts of New Guinea up until the mid to late 20th century, humans.  In the U.S. the hotbed (actually that’s an exaggeration these days, let’s say the lukewarmbed) is the area around St. Louis and the Ohio River Valley.  Two of the major dishes eaten using brains are eggs’n’brains (with scrambled eggs), and a fried-brain sandwich.
     Probably the prominent reason for brains’ loss of popularity as a food source is, of course, disease.  Various prion diseases, like mad cow, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, chronic wasting disease, scrapie, and kuru, are all extremely nasty and incurable.  To be fair, the odds of getting these diseases are rare to infinitesimally low (for example, we still, fortunately, have had no human mad cow cases in the U.S.), but it’s still a risk.  Even with animals who don’t have these diseases connected with them, mainly pig, there are less serious, but potential health issues—namely, brain tissue is very high in fat and cholesterol.
     I’ve tried brains on two occasions.  The first was of cattle, I think, in a taco in a Mexican restaurant in Iowa (the same place I had tongue and tripe in tacos, too).  The second was canned pig’s brains with a milk gravy.  Both were uniformly awful.  They tasted like I thought they would based on their appearance—slimy, and tasteless, with what little taste they had being somehow blandishly dreadful.
     To sum up, then—I couldn’t recommend brains as cuisine any less.  Both for the health concerns, and even with safer animals, for the taste.  So if you do find yourself turned into a zombie, I would advise consuming other parts of living people—it’ll taste better, there’s more meat, and you don’t have to break/bite through that pesky hard skull.

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