Sloppy Thinking


It’s surprising (to me, anyway) how difficult it is to make a luxurious dessert from cocoa powder and pig blood. The problem, I’m convinced, is the powdered blood I’m using, the jars of impossibly fine purple powder which sit on the shelves like something in an alchemist’s workshop; no matter what combination of temperature, hydration and whisking I use to produce a thick, black liquid blood, there always seems to be a slight grainy residue on the back of the tongue – though perhaps this is a residual squeamishness from thoughts of scabs, clots, stains and streaks. Eaten incognito, maybe this blood custard would seem the creamiest of desserts.

It always seems to be this issue of texture – that is to say, of the precise feeling in the mouth – which divides people over certain meats and offal. Take tripe. A beautiful shade of marble-white, the bleached and pre-cooked stomach lining has, once stewed in its usual heavy accompaniments of abundant onion or heavy tomato sauces, little distinct taste of any kind, let alone an offensive one; but the texture! Either rug-hairy or covered in soft, giving spikes, above all rubbery, it can seem like chewing on some chimerical alien’s hide; I find it edible, but I can’t say it’s something I would seek out very often – unless I was in Rome.

We don’t tend, in this country, to particularly value sloppiness – unless it is mitigated by a surrounding crunch. Jellyfish and sea cucumber have never made inroads here, and nor, really, have gelatinous okra, fermented beans, or the slimier of sea vegetables. Put it in a fritter, though, and that’s a different matter! I find simply poached brains, with their creamy, spreadable texture, intriguing if not overwhelmingly enjoyable; but deep-fried brains! Beautiful clouds, with a perfect surrounding crunch. While any sloppy meat – cheek, foot, belly, chest – does well in a croquette or similar situation, nothing matches the absolute transformation of the brain from worthy curiosity to pure, golden joy.

I suppose, really, that this is just a late adolescence of the palate, the start of a parallel journey to the one from chicken nuggets, turkey burgers and fish fingers to un-breaded protein; I need to go back to those spreadable brains, and see if the fritters have taught me their value. I suppose the lesson here is that anything can be made delicious by deep-frying, which we all knew anyway. Apologies for taking up your time. Now, where did I put those rabbit eyes?

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