I am fortunate to have children that will try all types of food. When my oldest was less than two, he gobbled down a spicy thai wrap that many adults won’t touch. When the two older boys were about 5 and 7 they woke me up one morning asking if they could have the sushi for breakfast. Thinking it was much healthier than sugary cereal (as well as an easy way for me to stay in bed a bit longer) I told them yes and rolled over. When I came downstairs the sushi was gone.
At our lakehouse my brothers will periodically bring raw oysters as a special treat. Seeing the slimy creatures, the cousins all started daring each other to eat them. The oldest cousin started and upon getting the oyster in his mouth, he immediately gagged and the oyster came right back up and onto the dock. My oldest was next – and the only one after the eldest cousin’s near barfing experience – and down it went. And stayed. And then he asked for another one. To this day, he swears he really likes raw oysters with a little lemon and cocktail sauce.
Nearly every day we stop at a local gourmet store, the boys are fast becoming connoisseurs of gelato and specialty meats and cheeses. Recently I saw something in the cheese case that looked nothing like cheese. It looked like guts of some creature all rolled together and held by rubber cement. I asked what this Testa di Coppa really was and one of the employees said it was head cheese. It still didn’t hit me until I ran into a friend later that day, who also works part time at this shop, that it was actually cheese made from a HEAD. This one was made using a pig’s head. The whole head of a pig.
The next time we ventured over to Goose the Market, this favorite little shop of ours, I asked the owner how he made this cheese. It was then that I turned into someone who can actually stomach seeing pictures of pig heads cooking in giant pots. I turned on my Nothing-Bloody-Bothers-Me Mom face and looked at the photos on his computer of the pig with it’s eyes still in it, of the snout covered with spices and of … honestly, I don’t know what else because I was too busy saying things like, “Boys, isn’t that so amazing?” Or, “Look at these pictures! Can you believe that pigs head, snout, eyeballs and all made THAT cheese in there?” I thought if I encouraged them to look at the photos I wouldn’t have to look at them too closely.
So, now they know about head cheese and about wilfong, wiltong, wil…something which is like a fine jerky that the men in South Africa chew. Unfortunately my boys prefer the Slim Jim but I’m confident that the more they learn of the delicacies of various locales, the more sophisticated their palates will be. Maybe not head cheese, but I wouldn’t put it past them to try a big chunk of it.
For more information about our favorite neighborhood gourmet shop, visit:
And if you go, tell them the family with the four boys sent you.