I just read, or should I say gobbled the book ‘Heat’ by Bill Buford. This Grade-A wordsmith left an editing post at the New Yorker to fulfill his fantasy of learning to cook at NYC’s Babbo; the 3-star Italian restaurant of culinary maharishi Mario Batali.
The inside kitchen poop was fun and sharply drawn (I’m a sucker for a well-braised phrase), but it was the ‘Tuscan Butcher’ section near the end that really boiled my blood. Here, Buford dissects his apprenticeship with legendary butcher diva Dario Cecchini in all its grisly glory. Suffice it to say, the descriptions of how to slaughter and eviscerate a cow while singing opera at the top of your lungs will leave your heart pounding. Indeed, with the deadliest of blades, a few gory chapters of this plasma-soaked tome shaved the overcooked meat off the shivering bones of my lofty musings about life and death.
The next day, my husband and I went to visit some of his Algerian family. Over a fine feast on their kitchen island, idle chit-chat turned to blood and butchery when a cousin revealed her secret passion and fave animal side-dish, wait for it: the dewy brown eyes of a lamb. Boiled. In hot water, with herbs and a little oil. But, before you drop the bulging eyeballs in the roiling pot, she warns, you must yank out Bambi’s inky black pupils- which are just slightly too acrid for the delicate belly of the human tongue.
Fortified by my new philosophy of life (look it squarely in the eye), I want to know more. I am told the texture is gelatinous, mmm. The words sink in as my imagination overheats… jelly-like, gummy, gluey, sticky, viscous. Popping eyeballs in the mouth like candy. Now, chew on that.
FAN THE FLAMES