So here we go again. The Ol' Bloviator must once more preface his remarks with one of his by now familiar apologies for neglecting his long-suffering followers. Once again he pleads for forgiveness, pointing to a spate of speechifying. (It would be helpful at this point if those few of you who have not yet been cornered and forced to listen to an OB oration would simply come in and register. Perhaps we can arrange a mass indoctrination that would save us all a little time, though, in your case, not much suffering.) There have also been humongous dissertations to read and a steady procession of grad students to examine. (Note: These exams typically do not require rubber gloves, although the examinees might well think they should.)
At any rate, ever since he stole a few minutes to read a few pages of the New York Times a while back, the OB has been keen to comment on the way totally bizarre and frequently disgusting things can become delicacies or actually made to convey a certain status or identity on those who consume them. Growing up on a farm, where we raised our own meat, from his tiniest tykehood, the OB loved nothing better than "hog killing" day, which typically coincided with the first day likely to remain cold enough to keep the meat from spoiling while it was being "worked up." Being frugal people of austere means, we country folk were loath to waste any part of the hog, and that included the small intestines, known formally as "chitterlings," although "chitlin's" suited us just fine. Since the intestines do, after all, have a rather dirty job to do while ol' Porky is alive and rootin' around, preparing them for cooking was a pretty dirty job itself, requiring that they be cut into strips before the, ahem, contents were flushed by repeatedly pouring hot water through them.
Suffice it to say, this was not a particularly coveted task, but you definitely hoped that the person responsible did a good, thorough job. Otherwise, it was E. coli city for those who would soon be feasting on them.
I am often--make that occasionally--asked how chitlins' taste. I have never felt happy with any reply I could muster beyond "better than they smell," especially when they're cooking. I remember when my poor mama began boiling or stewing chitlin's, every fly in the house found something really critical to do outside. I never ate chitlin's any other way than battered, fried, and swimming in ketchup with a dash of Tabasco. For me the purpose of the condiments was not to counteract the taste of chitlin's so much as to compensate for the lack thereof. Still, one thing was certain: If cooking chitlin's was women's work, eating them was entirely up to the men. Big "chitlin' suppers" were essentially a masculine ritual, sometimes supplemented by a game of Rook, with or without a sip or two of corn squeezin's.
In some ways, I guess chitlins' filled the same ritualistic role in southern cuisine as "Rocky Mountain oysters" played in the West. What could be more masculine after all than wolfing down the testicles of bull calves, excised (Ouch!), pounded flat (Ouch, again!), battered, and fried (We're well beyond "Ouch!" at this point.) This particular delicacy has eluded me thus far, but I do notice that every time I see a plate of R.M.O.s, there's always plenty of ketchup on hand.
You may not find the idea of consuming chitlin's or Rocky Mountain oysters very appealing, but the thing is, eating either one is supposed to signify that you are one rough and ready dude. That's why I was plumb near white-eyed by this story in the New York Times about the effete, elevated-pinky types who fancy coffee brewed from beans that have already--the Ol' Bloviator ain't kiddin' now--been eaten, partially digested, and pooped out by some trashy cat-looking-thing called a civet.
Civets, it seems, prowl around in Southeast
Asia looking for "the tastiest, ripest coffee cherries" to ingest and then
later divest as coffee beans said to yield a brew that is "smooth, chocolaty, and devoid of any
bitter aftertaste." (Yeah! Right!) Get this now, self-styled "connoisseurs" who
can't get enough of this "preprocessed" coffee have put such a premium on civet
poop that the woods are full of folks stalking the ugly creatures until they
get a call from nature, so to speak and Voila!
Others have decided to give nature a helping hand by separating the beans from the cherries and mixing them into a "banana mash," which is then fed to the civets. In the case of one owner, this technique has jacked the poop payoff from his hyper caffeinated civets up from roughly 5 ounces to 6.6 pounds per day. As is so common when first-world stupidity meets third-world poverty, there is now a flourishing trade in phony civet plop consisting of regular old coffee beans "glued to unidentified dung." There is also a heated debate over whether the "stress" on force-fed civets actually degrades the flavor of the beans compared to those ingested by "free-range" civets who, left to their own devices, supposedly opt only for the choicest of the coffee cherries. Scoffing at this notion, big-time civet owner Mega Kurniawan insisted there was no distinction between the beans yielded by civets in captivity and those found deposited in the wild, suggesting that the world's coffee snobs may prefer the latter, harder-to-come-by beans simply because of "the prestige."
Prestige is perhaps the ultimate commodity, and it seldom comes cheap. In this case, the price tag--hold on to your decaf, skinny latte with a shot of pomegranate liqueur, folks--is $227 per pound. Understandably, all this is fairly puzzling to locals who formerly prized civets primarily because they supposedly tasted mighty fine after their meat was dried and "prepared adobo-style." (After getting a look at one of these ugly little boogers, I think I'll pass on this "delicacy" too, along with anything brewed from something that has passed through their guts. Thanks very much, though.) But then, as Lambert Pat-og, the son of a local school principal pointed out, "We are ignorant." If so, you're my kind of ignorant, Lambert, old buddy, but in this case, as in many others, we are probably missing a bet. It's only a matter of time before someone offers a new line of civet-sized "Depends," for example, and I'm told the people at Goldman Sachs are already marketing civet-poop futures "on the down low."