Saturday, December 5, 2009

Headcheese and Brains

When a friend wrote recently on his blog, Food With Legs, about making brawn, headcheese, pâté de tête, whatever you want to call it, I wrote him saying that I knew the food well from my childhood as piftie. And there was nothing that could ever get me to eat it again.

I should probably explain that the Romanian version of headcheese not only involves odd pig parts suspended in gelatine, but the aspic is also garlic-flavoured. Now I love garlic, and regularly double the amount of garlic I put in every recipe, but the smell of the garlic-gelatine permeating the house as my parents cooked this piftie was really something else. I would carefully avoid the dining room, where the headcheese was put to cool, as long as it was there, and had a look of sheer disgust on my teenage face for as long as the piftie was around.

(I later discovered from a CBC [Canadian-Born-Chinese] friend that there is a Chinese version of piftie, only that in that case, the gelatine is coloured with blood. Needless to say, she showed as much eagerness to consume it as I did for piftie.)

The other dish Romanians love to eat that is frankly not to my taste is that delicacy known as creier pane, or breaded, fried calf brains. I wasn't much of a fan of brains as a child either, and once mistakenly ate it at a party due to a linguistic mistake. I was about ten years old. My parents told me that I should have some creier, and I simply didn't connect the word to "brains." I must have expected minte, the word for "mind." So there I was with the other kids, eating brains and not enjoying it very much, when they said, in English, "Eew, you're eating brains?" You can only imagine my horror.

Now here is my concern. I hated headcheese and I hated calf's brains as a child. Fair enough. But I also hated mussels, and lobsters, and beets, and I'm not sure that I was particularly fond of liver. These are foods I now adore and crave. So, is there a chance that I might now enjoy those disgusting dishes of my youth?


Kári said...

I tried calf's [calfs'?] brains in a butter-mushroom sauce when I was in Rome on a school trip in 1997 and thoroughly enjoyed them. Weird consistency, but quite tasty.

Bit like tofu. But with more Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

i said...

Are you saying we should try it again?

Actually, I'm totally open to the possibility that the Italians do brains better. I do know that tortellini are sometimes made of a mixture of brains, pork, some kind of cheese, and a green. I'm kind of tempted to make tortellini with brains as part of the mix.

foodista said...

I had brains masala at Lahore Tikka in Toronto, which is ok, but perhaps, if I had to find a fault, too much masala so you can't feel brain taste.
Also like Fried Brains, Romanian-style, and enjoyed chicken brains, while breaking the poor chicken's skull, in soup, in Romania, as a child...

i said...

bienentendue.... I was always a fan of the chicken heart, myself.