Too Much Tripe

TripeI started out to write something, but it was tripe. I deleted it.

I re-purposed myself to write something else, made a good start, then realized it too was tripe. I deleted it.

An impassioned political thought later raced through my mind and I sat down at this computer and my fingers began to fly over it with what seemed to be a will of their own. About two thousand words later it had turned to tripe. I deleted it, too, right after I cleaned the keyboard. What I had written was so tripe-esque that even though I usually save those two-thousand-word examples of folly for future use, I thought to myself that it would be better if no one ever read it, so, it, too, disappeared into formlessly random ones and zeroes, fading into the ether, never to be reassembled in the same manner.

Since everything was turning to tripe, maybe, I thought to myself, I’ll just write about tripe. You ever eaten tripe? It is the stomach of a cow or other ruminant, though mostly the word is associated with bovines. I am not sure which stomach it is, since bovine ruminants (are there any other kind of bovines?) have four stomachs. Maybe it comes from all of them.

I’ve eaten fresh tripe from a freshly cleaned steer, fried up and served hot on a plate. It tasted about as good as it could possibly taste, as some have more of a taste for it than others, and this way was not my particular favorite. Served up in a good stew is better, and Mexico’s national cultural rural dish seems to be menudo more so than enchiladas. Menudo is a bit too tripey for me, though. Many Mexicans seem quite fond of it.

Potted MeatMy favorite way to eat tripe is when it is cooked and finely ground into a rich paté. Here in the south it is a country boy lunchtime staple. We know it as potted meat. Put tripe (and other beef products and by products, partially defatted beef fatty tissue, heart, liver, lungs, hooves, bone fragments, cowbells, ear tags, etc.) into a big pot, mix in some seasonings and preservatives, boil it down until everything is good and tender, dry it out, then grind it into a fine paste, or paté if you prefer, and voilá.

As potted meat, it is not worth very much per pound. As paté though, it could be worth six or seven times more. I always wondered why the Armour company did not label Potted Meat and Spam as paté? They missed a real marketing opportunity.

“Would Monsieur care for ze potted paté to compliment ze wine zees evening?” the waiter at the French restaurant might ask me.

“Yes. Do you have the Libby’s potted paté, or Armour?” I reply.

“Both, monpatesieur,” the waiter might say, “But zee Armour regulaire would better compliment ze monsieur’s cabernet.”

“Armour re-goo-lair, then,” I say, and the waiter zips away to bring me my potted paté, which in this restaurant, though it is still tripe, costs about as much as caviar and tastes better.

Liver paté is a delicacy. It is expensive. Potted meat is cheap, but considered by many a country boy to be a delicacy. They are both the remnants of a time when no part of a food animal was wasted. Nor is any part of a food animal wasted today, but it is either obscured from our view or we mostly choose not to eat it when it comes our way, or some of us choose not to.

You can buy whole tripe in your supermarket. It will usually be in the frozen meat section though occasionally, depending on your local market and the number of Hispanics in your area, you can find it fresh. Menudo mania is more about fresh tripe than it is about music, though they both had a mania at one time. The tripe turned out to have a greater survivability factor, though I hear the band Menudo is still making the rounds.

Potted meat 2One of the photos shows paté. It is the one with the wine in it. Another shows potted meat on crackers with what appears to be cranberry sauce. Another shows sliced Spam. Maybe the latter two should have a dented can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in them. All of the above it is a matter of taste, though the paté group clings to the exclusive eclectivity of their tastes while the potted meat crowd scorn fancy fixin’s they consider uppity. Both groups are enjoying the delicacies of ground organ meats, all of them likely containing no more than the government limitations of insect parts, rodent hairs, and blowfly larvae. One just hopes that the allowable cumulative totals of the limits of foreign items aren’t all contained in the can one just opened.

Spam bills itself as ham (or pork shoulder, really), so there should be no tripe in it, as pork stomach is never called tripe. It is called maws. Hog maws…maws….not jaws, which one might mistake with jowl, which is actually jaws. Try not to get confused. It is all a lot of tripe, anyway, so no harm if you do.

I was a little bewildered spamwhen I googled tripe. Lots of stuff about dog food comes up. Dogs like paté, too. And they use the parts of it that humans won’t consume, or the excess, to flavor the grains they put in dog food which dogs otherwise would not eat. Give a dog a choice between potted meat and whole wheat, and he’ll go for the potted meat every time. So will I. Maybe I should try the dog food variety…the dogs like it and the per pound price is far less. Rest assured, if times were hard enough, a can of Twin-Pet would taste pretty good. It might even be considered a delicacy.

In earlier times, when we were much closer to the food animal, we saw to it that every portion was used for some purpose. Now, we are much further removed, and those purposes are still in effect but hidden from our view. Nothing is wasted, though. We understand that when we open a can of potted meat, but seldom consider what might be in our hot dog, even in our Kosher Hebrew Nationals. One thing is certain, there are no maws in a Hebrew National All Beef Frank, though which parts of the beef are in there I may not want to inquire too closely.

All of them contain paté of one sort or another, and in their splendid paténess is the slight hint of tripe. Many prefer a slight hint of tripe in their paté, but not a single one in their reading material.

If they did, I’d be famous now.

haggisNow, haggis, the national Scottish dish, is a tripe of its own kind. Please look closely at the photo. Can someone explain to me just exactly what canned vegetarian haggis is? By definition, it must be anything but haggis.You can look up haggis for yourself if you don’t know what it is. I’ve eaten it before, and it is unlikely that anyone will spring it on guests at a dinner party.

“Ah! What’s this?” the guests asked as their dinner plates were set before them.

“It’s haggis,” said the hostess.

“What is haggis?” one of the guests asked.

Mrs. MacDougal whirled around to her husband, Angus. “You didn’t tell them this was a haggis party?” she demanded immediately before the party broke up in haste, disarray and a bait of feigned headaches. Angus ate cold Haggis for a week afterwards.

Yes, you can even write tripe and get away with it, though you can’t be too sure just how far you’ll get. After a couple of days, no one will detain you for very long if you still have it with you.

Enjoy any sort of tripe you can, especially the tripe you prefer…or not, as the case may be. It’s all tripe anyway.

Debbie leans over my shoulder and looks at this. “You’ve got too much time on your hands.”

“I’ve got too much tripe on my hands,” was my reply.

©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp
The photos were all borrowed off the internet and are the property of others.

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