Saturday, March 9, 2013

Le Horse's Posterior and The Critical Mom

 Once upon a time I was vacationing in Switzerland.   I couldn't afford the five-star hotel my friends were staying in, but I did try a few of the pricey local restaurants with my boyfriend--who was soon to become my fiancé.  I didn't speak a word of German at the time, and when I asked him what I might like on the menu, he suggested "Rump Pferde."  It was delicious--like a well-grilled steak at an Argentinian steak house (this was before the Mad Cow scares).  Well, for my German-speaking readers out there, nodding their heads, there's no surprise, but most Americans will be startled to learn that "now you can tell your friends you've eaten horse's ass!"  as my husband-to-be put it.  I'll try anything once, twice if I like it, and three times to make sure.  Horse's ass has an honored culinary history and nutritionally can't be much distinguished from beef.  Here's a comparison for 100 grams (or 3.5 oz) of horse and beef:

Food sourceCaloriesProteinFatIronSodiumCholesterol
Game meat, horse, raw13321 g5 g3.8 mg53 mg52 mg
Beef, strip steak, raw11723 g3 g1.9 mg55 mg55 mg

Europe and Asia are prime consumers of horse meat, and a glance at Google offers recipes for "Veronese" horse alongside ethical bans.  In favor of horse meat consumption?  See  
Wikipedia and other sites remain vague on the issue of horse meat and paganism, the point of agreement being that in 732 A.D. Pope Gregory III campaigned to "stop the ritual consumption of horse meat in pagan practice"--that is, the Catholic church turned horse meat into a taboo.  Catholicism loves its taboos.  Then along came sentimentality.  Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, The Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague, Mr. Ed--once the horse got to TV, threatening the popularity of "man's best friend," Lassie, well, horse's ass got less popular on the menu.
But dog meat is a prized delicacy in Asia, as are webbed duck feet.  And according to a favorite book of my children,  James Solheim's It's Disgusting And We Ate It, delicacies that many Europeans and Americans deem revolting abound.  Bird's nest soup complete with birdie spit?  "1,000 year old eggs" aged in mud?  Spiders, grubs, and chocolate ants?  Live maggots, anyone?  All of the above and more have inspired lip-smacking and drooling.   In the Amazon basin there's even a beer-like beverage (a non-alcoholic version is prepared for children) called "chicha" whose ingredients include cassava and spit, the latter an aid in fermentation.   I think that's about where I'd draw the line, personally.  I'll take the horse's ass  (it was delicious with gravy and potatoes) but hold the chicha, chiquita.

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