July 12th, 2011


Writer's Block: On the menu

What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? Was it any good?

I've eaten a lot of weird things in my life, since my philosophy on food is that I'll try anything once, but the one that makes the best story is the sheep tripe.

Daniel and I were in Florence, with Daniel's parents, and we went to a Sardinian restaurant. Being a Sardinian restaurant in Florence is not easy, I gather, because the Florentines are firmly convinced of the superiority of Tuscan food, and the tourists don't exactly come to town to eat Sardinian food either. Anyway, I kind of felt like they felt under-appreciated.

See, we get to this restaurant, and I see that they cure their own guanciale (cured pork jowl - it's a lot like bacon). Curing your own pig parts is an activity that I consider worthy of respect, so I said, "Oh, look, they cure their own guanciale. We'll have to order some."

The waiter, on hearing this, became instantly convinced that I was not only a person of surpassing good taste, but a serious connoisseur of Sardinian food. And so he said to me, "And for your main course, if you want to try a real Sardinian specialty, you must have the sheep tripe." (Cow's tripe is the stomach lining of a cow. Sheep's tripe, I believe, is the lining of the small intestine.)

So, here I was, in a bind, because I hadn't really set out that evening intending to eat the intestines of a sheep. On the other hand, I will try anything once. So I ordered the tripe.

It was basically two little coils of white tubing that had been tied with twine, skewered, and either grilled or roasted. I ate it, while my tablemates looked on in amazement. It tasted sort of vaguely lamb-like and gamy. It's not something I would ever go out of my way to order again, but if circumstances resulted in my being served it again, I would not refuse to eat it.

The waiter was so impressed that I'd actually eaten the stuff that he completed our Sardinian dining experience by giving everyone at the table a shot of grappa on the house. Not to be outdone, I actually drank it, but I was the only one at the table to do so.