An Offal Story

I have a weakness for food. It has been probably made obvious that I have a thing for all things delicious, but I actually lack any will power when it comes to a tasty morsel. My mother justifies her anxiety for every time I miss her call, saying she has every right to be worried, as kidnapping me could be the easiest thing if the kidnappers do as little as wave a sandwich at me. I will then voluntarily get into the back of the van and let them drive me off and sell my kidneys on the black market. At least I was decapitated full and satisfied.

I am a fan of offal myself; of course not human offal- why that would be all wrong. Sheep organs are my favorite, and the livers are my most preferred of all vital body parts.

I’m always raving about my love for sheep livers back in Tehran, sliced and pierced by thin metal skewers, much thinner than the ones typically used for kabob koobideh and such. I’ll usually ask for a few skewers of liver, and sometimes a couple of heart, and watch him kabob them over charcoal to order, before serving them on lavaash bread (that I’ll use to slide off the meat from the hot skewers) with lemon and a salt shaker on the side.

So, in the rare case when the guinea pig spotted a bag of fresh chicken livers in the butcher’s fridge at the supermarket, our original meal plans were altered. Chicken livers don’t come close to sheep’s, but they are something to settle for, as the latter has been a challenge to score. I did research online, looking into farms in the rural New Hampshire/Vermont area that raise sheep, sending out emails and inquiries. Nothing. They were either slaughtered once a year and frozen, or too far a drive. I asked the butcher at the Co-Op, and he said they get a whole sheep every once in a while, but the livers are always missing. I asked about the heart and got a funny look combined with confusion and concern. I guess they don’t get 26 year old grad students asking for one organ or another very often in this New England town. He said I may though have luck with kidneys.I don’t know of any other way besides kabobing over an open fire to cook kidneys delectably. I need to put the thin skewers on my list of things to buy the next time I fly to Iran. Until then, the guinea pig and I would be having sauteed chicken livers and onions for dinner.

I trimmed the livers, delicate and bloody, and sliced them into a more stir-fry friendly size. I seasoned and floured them, crisping them with sliced onions before deglazing my pan with  some wine from the bottle I had just opened. We devoured them with bread and wine, completing the Eucharist to its true potential.

I was not always a venturesome eater. As a child, I was quite picky when it came to certain things, but mainly meat-wise. Now, pretty much the only thing I do not like are tomatoes, and my intolerance for them comes mostly just in their raw form.

My first liver experience occurred when I was in high school. It was early summer in Tehran and I was at the amusement park with my close friend and her family. My friend is small, even smaller than I am, with olive skin and a likable smile. She’s been named after the morning dew.  It was at the end of the night and we were satisfied with the rides and almost ready to go back home. Not wanting to take me home without having had dinner, my friend’s father came back from the liver man in the corner who had a small glass fridge, an aluminum fire pit, and a woven fan. Her father held up a plastic bag. Inside were kabobbed slivers of heart, kidney, and liver, wrapped and insulated in lavaash bread. Everyone seemed eager and hungry. My friend, her sister, and her parents started ripping off bread and using it to grab the meat, insisting that I join. Her mother took a tear of bread to pick up a couple of offal pieces and handed it to me. I was fifteen and skeptical. I hesitated, but I accepted the offer, and surprisingly appreciated it. The meat was soft, smooth, and fluffy rather than stringy, and it smelled smokey and charred. And that’s how I was introduced.

The day after the guinea pig and I had chicken livers and onions, JC came over to watch an episode of Friends. If it’s not a meal, she’ll want a snack any time she’s in my apartment for more than twenty minutes. I asked if she were willing to try some leftover chicken livers, and she said yes. So I warmed the livers and made her a wrap and stared at her face waiting to see her reaction as she took a bite. To my surprise, and hers, not only did she not dislike it, she liked it. Campbell-soup-and-Lean-Cuisine-JC finished her chicken liver wrap with gratification. And that’s the story of how JC was introduced to chicken livers. She made me proud.

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4 thoughts on “An Offal Story

  1. It’s possible that you are the only person from whom I would ever accept liver, but I now know to trust you whole-heartedly. Thanks for exposing me to the wonderful world of homemade food at Dartmouth. Come to New Mexico and I’ll give you a taste of our New Mexican chili-smothered creations (homemade by someone other than me, though. I still have a long way to go.)

  2. Oh Lordy, dripping liver on lavash bread, washed down with pomegranate juice, on a summer night in Shariati Street… Love!

  3. You can always recognize a true food lover by their speaking of their favorites, describing the details…taste…and everything…You almost made me jump to the nearest liverman

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