Part One: Spicy Tongue
We opened Friday morning with Mr. Butcher and a huge hunk of meat. Mr. Butcher could have been pulled straight off a Disney set, complete with black apron, chain-link belt, burly frame, and black beard. I entered the room with trepidation, wondering if the gore would put me ill at ease but was remarkably impressed with the precision and science that was shared. Slicing cuts of meat from the carcass (such an ugly word) actually is more art form than not. (Helpful hint: when in doubt, slice with the bone.)
I absorbed it all like a sponge. Mr. Butcher hefted a bison shoulder around, delicately removing bone and separating muscle all while explaining the qualities of each cut of meat from its toughness to its flavor quality. Biggest take away: muscles used more heavily by the animal during life contain the most flavor; therefore, our lovely filet mignon, though tender, lacks the flavor found in “less desirable” cuts. My next stop at the butcher counter will include flat iron steak – deemed by Mr. Butcher as superior to the elitist filet.
And then he pulled out tongue, 3 in fact. Amazingly (or not) it looks exactly like a tongue. Mr. Butcher began singing its praises while peeling (yes, peeling) the outer layer off the stiff chunk of meat. I felt as though I was being let in on a big secret – that tongue is actually a delicacy I’ve been ignorant of all these years. My only experience of tongue had been a trick my mother played on me and my siblings in our youth. She served what for all the world looked like a tongue, and she happily indulged our fears much to her glee. It was actually a tenderloin, but I refused to touch the thing. Mother was not to be trusted.
Meanwhile, Mr. Butcher, with genuine delight, shares that he is going to have his student chefs prepare a serving of tongue for all of us to enjoy. My first thought: resignation – I was actually going to try this. Hell the Indians did it, and they bit it off raw and bloody (read: Dances With Wolves bison hunt). I dutifully took my place in line and thanked the chef for my salsa verde smothered tongue on corn tortilla. Knowing procrastination is the enemy of progress, I took a bite and for all the world, it reminded my of a Greek Gyro – the texture was identical. “Not bad,” I thought, and gobbled up the rest.
So what’s next, brains or intestines anyone? Let’s not push it. My maturity has its limits…