Metro-East Living

For heaven’s sake, don’tmake me eat that stuff

One of my worst nightmares goes like this: I get up to the pearly gates and St. Peter looks at the page in the big book with my name in it, scratches his beard and says, “Hmmmm. Says here that in 1961, Patrick, you refused to eat a bite of liver sausage.”

“That’s a sin?” I say.

“Don’t be silly,” he replies. “It also says you told your mother you had tried liver sausage before ... 22 times.”

Then the angels wheel out this cart with a covered dish on it. They lift up the lid and aaarrrhhhggg!

I wake up in a cold sweat.

I have a confession to make. To this day, I have never, ever tried even a teeny tiny speck of liver sausage. And I don’t ever plan to.

My parents loved the stuff. But it was all I could do to look at it, sniff it and try to cover it with creamed peas.

“Just try a little piece of it,” Mom said. “It’s good for you. Lots of iron.”

“I have tried it. It tastes rusty,” I said, snookering my sister into looking out the window so I could slide a chunk onto her plate. Another narrow escape.

Mom was a great cook, but there were a few old-fashioned things my parents ate that I just couldn’t stomach.

Take head cheese, for example. To a kid, it’s meat Jell-O. A mosaic of different shades of unidentified meat suspended in a gelatinous goo. You didn’t have to chew it, just wait and it would slither down on its own. At least that’s what my brother told me. I never tried it.

Tongue sandwiches were another delicacy. Cow tongue. Mmmm-boy.

A cow tongue, for you young whippersnappers, is about the size of a football and about the same texture, with all those little bumps all over it. Under the outer membrane, which peels off like a bad sunburn, is a bunch of gray mush. Now, I’ve seen a lot of cow tongues in action — I even have a couple of cowlicks myself — and I can tell you they aren’t pretty. Long and slimy, like a giant slug.

I figured the tongues came from mischievous young cows who got caught in an act of defiance. “If you stick out your tongue at your sister again,” the mom cow would say, “I’m going to cut it off.”

And send it over to the Kuhls’ house for dinner.

I never tried tongue sandwiches either.

I don’t even want to think about brains. I know the cerebral delights have a lot of fans in this area. They tell me they’re light and fluffy and taste like chicken. But I have trouble digesting anything with a high IQ (inedible quotient).

And I don’t buy the line that eating brains will make me smarter. After all, they’re Holsteins, not Einsteins.

Pop had a fondness for chicken necks. He’d go to the store and buy a huge bag of them for pennies. He’d cook them up in a soup, then pull out the necks and eat them a la carte.

In case you’ve never had them, it’s difficult to get to the meat in chicken necks. You have to almost suck it out from between the vertebrae. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a family sitting around the table eating chicken necks. I never had friends over when Pop brought home chicken necks.

We didn’t let anything go to waste. When we had chicken, Mom would fry all those innards after we ate the outards. Chicken livers were fine with me. But I had to draw the line at hearts and gizzards. I just didn’t have the guts.

The same goes for bone marrow. To Pop, the marrow was the best part of a good roast. But it was Silly Putty to me. My motto: Never eat today what you can put off till the marrow.

There are lots of other things on my never-tried list. Pickled pigs feet, blood sausage, herring. I just hope my kids never find out.

Our sons are adults now, but we still can’t get them to eat sweet potatoes, cream-style corn or turnips.

“Just try that sweet potato, son, it’s good for you. And it tastes great with a little butter and brown sugar.”

“I have tried it, Dad. I just don’t like it.”

At least if he tried cream-style corn, he’d have a place to hide the sweet potato.

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