Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Oysters, Eggs, Testicles, and Intestines.

This is the final instalment of an unplanned trilogy on chickens and oysters and chicken-oysters and non-mollusc oysters. I suffer, at times, I think, from concept-creep and the urgent need to share the efforts of my research creepings with you. To re-cap: on Friday we considered the small piece of meat called the chicken oyster, which led me to the amusing etymology of the merrythought, which led me to today’s story on ‘other’ oysters.
It all began with the simple task of looking up what the Oxford English Dictionary had to say on oysters. After it had dealt with the oyster-as-a-mollusc and the oyster-as-chicken, the OED had more:

a. Chiefly U.S. With distinguishing word: an item of food likened to an oyster in shape, flavour, texture, etc.  corn, mountain, prairie oyster.

The subsequent supporting quotations are a veritable guide to all that is good in mock-oysters – one of them even includes an actual recipe. Here they are, with comments on, and links to, some of those I have already featured here on this blog:

1847   S. Rutledge Carolina Housewife 101   Corn Oysters.

I dedicated a complete post to MockOysters some years ago: one of the recipes was based on corn. 

1883   Daily News Cook Bk. 388   Veal Oysters—Get one and one-half pounds of tender veal from the leg, cut into pieces the size and shape of an oyster, dip in olive oil and roll in fine cracker crumbs.

What I love about the above, is that the Oxford English Dictionary has performed as a cookbook!

1907   Daily Chron. 4 Feb. 4/7   A wistful pet name for an egg, duly seasoned and to be swallowed whole—the ‘prairie oyster’.

It is not spelled out in the above recipe, but the egg is consumed raw, and is reputed to be a good cure for a hangover.See the following quote for another explanation of the name.

1937   A. Wynn in J. F. Dobie & M. C. Boatright Straight Texas 217   At branding time there was that delicacy known as the mountain oyster.

‘Mountain oysters’ are the delicate name for the delicacy also known as bull’s testicles; they are also sometimes called ‘prairie oysters’ – which may cause a problem if you want to order a raw egg hangover cure.  I mentioned them in a previous post, here.  

a1969   in Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (1996) III. 924/2   Cabbage oyster ... tastes like oyster stew, like oyster stew with cabbage in place of oysters.

The ‘cabbage oyster’ as an entity is proving elusive: my first thought is that it refers to cabbage rolls, but I really have no idea. Another thing to add to my ever-lengthening list of interesting things to research!

1999   Wall St. Jrnl. (Electronic ed.) 8 Mar.   Chitlins, formally called chitterlings, casually called ‘chitts’, and occasionally referred to as ‘Kentucky oysters’.

Chitterlings (chitlins) are the intestines of freshly-killed hogs (or less commonly, calves). As a food, they are associated with the American South. Another euphemism for them is ‘wrinkled steak.’  

As the recipe for the day, I give you chitlins from one of my favourite cookery books, published in 1827 – Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for Rich and Poor, by a Lady.

Chitterlings, in various Ways.

They require to be very well cleaned; turn them out, and lay them some hours in lime or charcoal-water; refresh, wipe, dry, and lay them in vinegar; mince part of the chitterlings, after they have been cooked in white stock, roux, or blanc and toss them with half the quantity of minced suet, a little cream or stock, a clove of garlic, or a clove or two of shalot, mace, pepper, and salt; stuff the chitterlings, turn them round, tie them in short lengths as sausages, with very narrow tape or cord, and leave a little bow at each tying; paper, and fix them upon a grill, hang it on a bird-spit, and baste well with white wine and white wine vinegar; take off the paper, and give it a very pale colour, finishing with butter, and serve them upon spinach or sorrel. They are also excellent cooked in a braise, and a sauce made of it with acid; or plain roasted, without farcing, tied up nicely, and basted with butter and vinegar, which is to be made into a sauce for them with a little white gravy.


Mantelli said...

Veal oysters? That reminds me of a story of my Mom's. She was born in Brioklyn in 1912 and used to go to lunch in the1930s with her girlfriends, where they would contemptuously turn their chicken croquettes over with their forks, speculating that they were "just veal ".

Piet B said...

I wonder if "cabbage oyster" is a variant on "oyster plant", which is what we called the root vegetable salsify when I was growing up in the Midwest. It's supposed to taste like oysters; I didn't think it did, but the grownups were agreed on the proposition. My grandmother boiled the roots, then sliced them into rings, breaded them, and fried them briefly as though they were the canned oysters which were the only oysters we could get in the middle of the U.S.

The Old Foodie said...

Thankyou, Piet! I do believe you may be right! It makes a lot of sense. I had not considered that idea. I havent previously come across the name as an alternative for salsify, but that does not mean it is not correct! With that in mind, I will see what I an find.
Thanks again