Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eat your tripe!

Yeah, I know, you won't go near the stuff.

Big surprise.

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.


Claudia said...

I'm scared to post. Never have seen tripe in stores here (whew). Of course, never went looking. I did try the stuff in Scotland. And decided I was done. Now, yours does not look to evil - smothered in the sauce and all. But just as with snails (where you really like all that garlic and butter), I am assuming I would really just love the sauce. Just sayin'.

Mister Meatball said...

Yeah, I'm feeling kinda lonely here already.

scott said...

Good stuff, meatball. I wrecked a bunch of tripe in Rome just last month.....big fan!

Jeannie said...

Errr...I think I'll stick to pasta and pizza.

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

As you know, Mr. M, I'll try anything once and most things twice. Also, I generally like organ meat--liver, kidneys and oh yes, sweetbreads. However, I've given tripe a try half a dozen times, prepared by experts, including yourself (or maybe it was Ms. M, I forget). But tripe is just too deeply funky and overly chewy for my taste.
Like the photos, though!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

My husband and I actually DO like tripe! When I was a child my Dad's favorite Campbell soup was "Pepper Pot" soup. It's hard to find now. It was tomato based, spicy with pieces of tripe in it. I loved it too!

When I met my Italian husband his family introduced me to all kinds of things I never thought I'd eat but being adventursome I'd always try them and usually liked what I tasted.

I make tripe a few times a year..in fact I have a recipe for vegetable tripe soup in my blog.

It went over big when I posted it a few years ago...lol...not!

Proud Italian Cook said...

My husband is a huge fan of tripe, in fact when we were in Florence he ordered it everyday, sorry not me I had the ribollita! I will show my hubby this, but I will be afraid he'll want me to make it!

Velva said...

I can certainly appreciate trip but, honestly I have not made the leap. I am sure it's a mind thing.

Cheers to you.

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

So I just gave tripe another chance--and what a chance, a morsel or two at Daniel. During a wine tasting, chef paired a Regnie Beaujolais with milk-soaked tripe breaded and deep-fried. Now, I think that even Styrofoam packing material can be made palatable via the deep fryer, but this was one chewy funky hunk of fried stuff. The tripe provoked quite a bit of comment during the tasting too, and among the dozen or so people I talked to, only one person liked the tripe. We did all like the headcheese paired with a Cote de Brouilly.

Gin said...

Guess you'll have to have all ten of us over for a meal! A bet is a bet- a promise is a promise!

Anonymous said...

keep posting, I love your writing.
If you make it down to Philomath I will cook you some tripa. Tell me how it compares to the genuine article.
jc at gtf

Mister Meatball said...

Anonymous: You are kind. You also owe me some trippa when next I am out your way.

Tones. said...

The first time I tried Tripe and liked it was on a trip to El Salvador. Street vendors sold it in portion size clear bags. It was SO good. The sauce they cooked it in made it reddish in colour and it melted... absolutely melted on my tongue. I wish I had that recipe. Came to research tripe as I have a pot of it on the burner at the moment. Tastes o.k.. I want something better than okay. All this talk about tripe and sauce and garlic and..... mmmm I'm hungry.

Anonymous said...

This post is older but pleaseee tell me what asian market you went to for tripe. I just moved to Portland and miss it so much!!!

Mister Meatball said...

The place I used to get it from closed. Best bet now is Veranda on Forest Ave.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! :)