Our son Court recently embarked upon a culinary adventure. He documents his experience here….
By Court Zierk
The tongue is a fascinating organ. It is simultaneously the most flexible and most sensitive muscle in our entire body, it is the only muscle that works without any support from our skeletal system and it is also solely responsible for our ability to taste, which is the reason you can differentiate between sour, sweet, bitter, salty and umami. You should really thank your 10,000 taste buds sometime.
As fascinating as it is, it is also strange and somewhat off-putting. When it comes right down to it, the tongue really has few attractive qualities. There is a reason that Hannibal Lector doesn’t usually serve tongue to his dinner guests. It isn’t the most appetizing thing to think about, let alone eat. Even mass-murders have their limits you know.
But, apparently I don’t.
Recently, I have been challenging myself to push the boundaries outside of what I consider to be customary. You see, I am an admitted creature of habit, and I rarely venture outside of my long-established norms. I eat the same thing for breakfast everyday, I drink San Pellegrino like it’s going out of style and I could eat pizza for dinner everyday if it wasn’t frowned upon as a sole staple of sustenance.
But, this Christmas break, I spent much of my time cooking fairly extravagant meals for my family, something I absolutely love to do when I have time at my disposal. On a whim, I decided to replicate, or attempt to replicate, a meal I saw recently on Bizarre Foods, which by definition isn’t typically a wise move.
Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, was in Mexico City and, among other varieties, devoured a cow-tongue taco that he absolutely raved about. Having recently seen a recipe for a tongue taco on Allrecipes.com, I decided this was going to be my project for the day.
So I set out on the town with my trusty sidekick (Kaiya) by my side, on a hunt for cow tongue. Knowing that they sell every organ, appendage and extremity of just about every animal in existence at the Asian market, I of course made that my first stop. After some rummaging through various animal organs, I finally ignored my overpowering male instincts, and asked a store-worker for help.
It turns out cow tongue was so popular that particular week that the Asian store was completely sold out. “Wow, this must truly be as divine as Andrew made it out to be on television,” I confidently told myself.
My next stop was a small carniceria about two blocks down the road. Luckily, they had a plethora of tongue for me to choose from, and I chose the largest, and most disgustingly opulent one they had.
Kaiya and I then headed home, and I embarked upon a carnal dismembering like no other as I removed the outer, extremely tongue-y exterior, before placing the gigantic organ into my slow cooker. At one point, my steel-stomached and far more culinary adventurous wife even remarked about how disgusting it looked.
With the tongue in the slow cooker, along with a cornucopia of onions, garlic and other spices surely intended to mask the potent iron taste that accompanies most organ meat, I sat back and let the crock-pot do its work.
Ten hours later, it was time to eat.
My first observation was that the meat remained extremely tough even after simmering on low heat for nearly half of a day, and certainly couldn’t be shredded as suggested by the recipe.
Instead I cut it into half-inch cubes, and wearily put one of the cubes into my cautiously optimistic mouth. Much to my dismay, the texture was much like you would expect a tongue to be, and was very difficult for me to get past. To make matters worse, the meat had almost no flavor.
So while I struggled to cope with the consistency of an animal’s tongue in my mouth, there wasn’t even the redeeming outburst of flavor I had so hoped for.
In an attempt to flavor up the meat, my wife Alyx searched through every spice we had in the pantry, utilizing what seemed like an endless variety of masking agents. In the end, we ended choking down moderately flavored meat that bore an uncanny resemblance to the consistency of a tongue, because well, it was tongue.
All in all, while I’m glad I attempted to make a unique and somewhat exotic dish, and I will continue to broaden my horizons over the course of this year, I would consider it a unanimous failure.
The moral of the story is to never emulate a dish from a TV show whose sole purpose is to make the viewer uncomfortable while watching them consume said dish. I’m guessing it rarely works out well.
Nana’s Notes: I can’t tell you how excited I was that he undertook this challenge. Tacos de lengua are actually quite popular around the Phoenix area, but I have never gotten brave enough to try one, though my brother says they’re good. Mostly I applaud Court’s willingness to challenge his food boundaries. And my guess is that while Kaiya was his sidekick, she didn’t give them a try. Can’t blame her for that one.