Yesterday, I overcame a fear that has been haunting me for the past ten years. It is never admirable for a chef to tell people that they are afraid to try certain foods. I have happily tasted sweetbreads, heart, gutted fish, and cooked rabbit. But I was scared, no, more like terrified and nauseated by the thought of eating…………..TONGUE! (cue the horror music)
People have been trying to convince me for YEARS to eat this tender and supposedly delicious meat, but every time I had the opportunity I chickened out.
Here’s how my fear began; About ten years ago I was working for a kosher caterer on Passover. It was my first introduction into the catering world and mass food production. I was mindlessly peeling about two hundred carrots over a trash can and drifting into my thoughts, when a small Russian lady came over to where I was working, plopped down a huge pan of large tongues. I didn’t even notice she was there, until I started seeing taste buds being flung into the trash can. Unrecognizable at first, I looked to see what was in the pan. A large, grayish piece of meat with an uncanny resemblance to a massive human tongue.
Newsflash – cow tongues look exactly like human tongues! Nauseated, I pulled the “I think my peeler is broken” excuse and ran to the back of the room to gather my thoughts and breathe. I remember my heart pounding and thinking for the first time in my life that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a chef. If I couldn’t handle tongue, how was I supposed to ever handle liver, hearts and fish? I was hoping that experience wouldn’t affect me, but it did…for the next ten years!
Albert Einstein famously said, “I admit thoughts influence the body.” This quote inspired me to build the courage to try tongue. Solo has a new dish on the menu featuring tongue. I asked for a bite and was made a plate. The mental image of tongue resonated in my mind as I stared at the sliced pieces on the plate in front of me. I thought, “It’s now or never.” I changed my negative thoughts about tongue, took a bite, and it was absolutely delicious! Tongue is such a tender piece of meat. It is a little gamey, but nonetheless perfection. I ate the whole thing and was left completely satisfied. Today, I keep thinking back to that first bite of tongue. I am still a tad nauseated by the thought of it, but once I get past the mental image, I am able to thoroughly enjoy it.