Yeah, I know, you won't go near the stuff.
Well, I will. Last time I was in Rome, where they know from a cow's stomach lining, I sampled the tripe at maybe a dozen places. The Romans are masters at cooking the offal. Like cooks in Shanghai know their dumplings, or Hawaiians their poi. I once traveled to Rome with a companion whose sole mission was to consume every type of animal organ, gland and extremity that the Italians would put on a plate.
At one particularly splendid lunch, in Testaccio, at Checchino dal 1887, the two of us went through every offal in the place – and the place is world famous for its offal. Testaccio, you see, was once Rome's slaughterhouse district, and remains the epicenter for "fifth quarter" (innards and such) cuisine. The veal trotter salad was a standout as I recall, as was the arrosto misto, a mixed roast which included livers and sweetbreads and intestines and testicles.
The Romans use tomato in their Trippa alla Romana, along with Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh mint leaves and white wine. Stirred all together this makes for a full, rich, satisfying flavor that even a professed tripe hater ought to appreciate, if only they would allow it to their lips.
Like the Romans, I cooked up a batch of trippa on a Saturday, just this past one in fact. (Why the dish is tradition on that day I do not know, though it seems as good a day as any.)
What happened is that I woke up craving lunch at Cul De Sac, a wonderful place near the Piazza Navona where the trippa is especially tasty. And so there I was at five o'clock on Saturday morning (already 11 a.m. Rome time), checking flights to Fiumicino and wondering if a Sunday afternoon meal might be in the cards.
I had the fever all right. But a last-minute booking to the Eternal City was simply not to be, and so I settled for preparing my own trippa instead.
Here in Portland, where I live, it is not so easy being a tripe lover. Other than the Salvadoran restaurant in town, which serves a mean menudo on Sundays, there is not a self-respecting, tripe-cooking toque wearer to be found. And good luck trying to buy the stuff at the supermarket. New Englanders, for some oddball reason (not a good one, I assure you), like their tripe pickled. Yes, pickled. Why not just rip off the soles of your filthy, stinky shoes and eat those? Geez!
Butchers or so-called "Italian" stores? Forget about it. I once inquired about ordering tripe from one of the meat markets in town and was told, nicely of course, that I would need to purchase an entire box. That would be the same box that the butcher needed to special order, filled with tripe he believed could not be sold to anybody in his orbit but me.
I ask you, just what was I to do with 30 pounds of beef tripe — summon every coyote within howling distance to hoof it on over to my house for a big feed?
Luckily, Portland is teeming with Asian markets, and you know how those people enjoy their weird-ass foods. (That was a compliment, if you didn't know.) It is never a problem procuring a few pounds of fresh beef tripe from the Asian market I have come to frequent. But as I hail from a place where you buy your tripe from men in white aprons named Sal and Tony, not An or Duong, tripe-buying here took some getting used to.
I am not entirely sure why I'm telling you all of this. If I were a betting man I'd wager nobody's even bothered to read this far into a blog post devoted to yucky, disgusting, are-you-really-going-to-eat-that-stuff tripe.
Wait. I am a betting man. Not the degenerate gambler my brother is, but a wagerer nonetheless. If anybody still is out there drop me a line. I'll have all three of you over the house next time I'm feeling kinda Roman.
Or I could check on flights to Fiumicino again. Good as this trippa was, it would be a whole lot better around one-thirty on a Saturday afternoon in Roma.
I'm just saying.