Comfort eating – the offal truth

“How come you OAP’s insist on eating WWII food when you’re feeling poorly?” was allegedly NOT quite what my daughter said in the kitchen yesterday. At least according to her step-sis, who often leaps to her defence in the case of the least perceived affront.

Still, i’d swear to the sentiment – and the WWII reference was definitely in there. (I wonder if she knows which side Churchill was on?) It was occasioned by her stumbling across me in the midst of preparing a dish of braised hearts. And before you all go yuk!: they may look a bit organic, but they taste of lamb, and provide an intensity of protein and other nutrition that you tend not to get from regular meat.

Childish throwbacks

Basically, i have been taking refuge in childhood tastes over the last few days. Part because, having lost a stone, i’m happy to put some of that back on quickly – and many of my childhood favourite dishes will do that. Second, because i now have a window of opportunity for eating all the hi-cal, hi-cholesterol stuff i ordinarily don’t eat.

But WWII cooking? Huh! Maybe daughter has a point. Some of the stuff i’ve been scoffing is straight out of the nursery. Have been craving ambrosia puds. Not just rice. But sago. Tapioca. Substances i suspect don’t tend to feature much in the modern diet.

I’ve been eating ice cream, which i ordinarily don’t. We had a home-made suet pud at the weekend. And – briefly – have allowed myself the odd cake or bun.

Ooo – you are offal!

But i guess its in the offal section of the menu that i sound most aged. Kids nowadays, i grump, along with pensioners everywhere, just don’t appreciate good solid food. Like liver and bacon. Or devilled kidneys. Or hearts.

Whyever not? Partly, i guess, the taste. We are so used to eating bland that the stronger tastes associated with offal just don’t make the grade. I mean, it can’t be accident that despite forays into all manner of alternatives, McDonalds have never seen fit to offer a chopped liver alternative.

Though not all offal tastes stronger. I love sweetbreads which, as the name suggests, are mild and delicate in flavour.

And – i’m sure the boy will love to learn this – in my youth i more than once enjoyed a brain omelette (with onions!). That was a specialty put together by my dad, to whom most of the ickier cooking in our household tended to gravitate. Sadly, post BSE, i’m not sure its a treat i’ll ever eat again. But honest: tis gorgeous.

Denatured youth

So taste is one thing: and distance from nature, i suspect, the other. I remember running a pack of hearts past a Tesco checkout girl one day a few years back and she looked puzzled. “What do you do with those?” she asked. Er, eat them. She looked disgusted and moved on.

Yet with every passing year we know less and less about where food comes from. andrea recalls a show and tell lesson at a school in Suffolk at which a lamb was introduced to the assembled youth – and teachers debated beforehand whether it was OK to explain that lamb chops and this cute and fluffy creature were much the same thing, separated by a short interval in time.

Natasha, whose comment set this blog post going, had a brief Homer Simpson moment a year or two back when she underwent the sudden and dazzling realisation that sausages, bacon and salami come from the same single magic breed of animal – the pig!

Since i’m heading back to the past, i shall add mention briefly to another childhood substance that i haven’t found on supermarket shelves in a long time. Rennet. In fact, there seems to be hardly anyone under 40 left who knows what it is or what you’d use it for.

(brownie points for anyone who can answer that WITHOUT resorting to google)

Which is a shame, cause i wouldn’t mind hazarding a junket whilst i’m still in childish food mood.

Ah, well. I guess i am a dinosaur as far as food is concerned. There used to be less choice. Less processed stuff and, allegedly, many of us were quite healthy. I think i’d better stop there before i turn into jamie oliver, which feels a transition too far.



5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Circadian said,

    Well, I don’t think the food was any healthier then – though the overall lifestyle was (apart from all the smoking…) Basically the whole thing is about balance – you *can* eat whole plates of fat and grease, just as long as you have the active lifestyle to burn it off (and some fruit and veg to get the other goodness needed).
    However, even after all the grue of the details of the past few days, may I just say EWWwwwWWW! Think I’ve been a vegetarian a bit too long to be able to read this without feeling just a little queasy.

  2. 2

    janefae said,

    aaargh! you made me laugh. You mustn’t make me laugh until all the stitches are out.

    Although, dunno. As far as i am concerned the decision is veggie vs. non-veggie (and most of the time now i’m more veggie than not). But if you are going to eat an animal, does it matter that much whether you gnaw on its thighs or nibble its kidneys?

    The ick factor here is surely human squeamishness.


  3. 3

    katrina2 said,

    Ah childehood, my grandfather; was a Tripe dresser, and he often brought home some skirt, I was a very confused child.

  4. 4

    sophia said,

    Love cooking meat but definitely not eating it – my father ran a cooked meats factory and I did summer jobs there.
    Animal or vegetarian rennet ? Think you could probably find some in a reasonable health food store.

  5. 5

    I know what rennet is! You can often find a vegetarian version for making junket/set puddings in the baking section of Sainsburies. I hope it’s not disrespectful to comment but my parents are also of the ration book generation. I never developed a taste for offal and I’m now a vegetarian, but I do love a really dirty flavourful vegetable.

    I don’t have the statistics but in 1944 at the height of rationing rates of malnutrition were at an all-time low.

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