Friday, April 18, 2008

Swan song, et c

Me, ever since I saw my grandpa chop a chicken's head off (complete with the runnin' 'round spectacle that followed) one day, and then the next day saw him chop of a rattlesnake's head (with the follow-up warning that the head was still deadly, for a long time after life itself was gone), I've been what you might call suspicious about the whole denogginizing process. Word is, guillotined Frenchmen blinked a whole lot without the benefit of their bodies, in the name of science.

So imagine this:

Your intrepid reporter is in pursuit of something Eastern European, y'know, werewolf bread, Soviet yams, something. He's heard mysterious tales of a soup made from blood. Yes! Blood! No kidding! So I looked long and hard. I mean I asked around casually. And guess what, reader, it's not actually hard to find a czarnina (blood soup!!) recipe. Everyone has one. They're even like, 'You have blood pudding in England, don't you?,' and I'm like, 'I don't, no!' and they're like, 'You use too many exclamation points!' but in any event, it turns out that the difficulty isn't in finding something mildly exotic to eat, but rather, in discriminating between the different recipes that every single person gives you. Which is actually the best? And how much homecooked blood can a man eat in a week in the name of psuedoscience? (Or psuedo-psuedoscience, as it were)

Turns out, a lot.

And a whole lot of the whole process involves birds getting their heads lopped off.
I'm actually a picky eater, kids. If I can shake a piece of bacon without breaking it I put it back in the pan. I'm almost positive I ate nothing but chocolate milk and Kraft Cheese n' Macaroni for at least two months straight at one point in grad school. But I'm traveling, I'm trying to be up for anything, I'm trying to be at the mercy of new places.

So I set out to eat any and every bit of blood soup I could manage to convince a student or student's mother to serve me.

Have you ever had a really bad bloody nose? With celery in it?

One thing that seemed to be a constant was vinegar. Many questions and increasingly fat Polish-English dictionaries finally revealed that it prevents clotting. I'm almost sad to say that the 'goose' blood made the best soup, to my mind. (By goose I almost certainly mean swan, but my chef disagreed, so who am I to argue).

Discard guts, or do whatever tickles your fancy with them, the 'goose' isn't going to mind at this point.

Chill the blood and vinegar.

Pluck the 'goose,' then put the meat and organs (sans lungs, as far as I could tell, but with liver, gizard, and heart) into a big pot, pour water over it until it's full, then boil it all. You take the goo off the top (and I'm sure there's a name for this stuff, but I don't know it), then mix in whatever's in the garden, apparently, for example: onions, celery, peppers, stuff that I couldn't pronounce in a thousand years and lots of it, with the goo, put it in a little cloth bag and let that cook with the 'goose' meat at a low temp for about 3 hours.

Sorry I don't know the exact cooking temperature, but it was a gas stove and the cook was an 80-year old woman whom I was physically afraid of anyway, and who seemed to like to swing a cleaver around whenever she talked to me (or anyone, for that matter), not necessarily threateningly, but threateningly nonetheless.

Once everything would seem to be done, throw in whatever fruit you have, we had prunes, cherries and apples.

At this point the blood/vinegar came out of the fridge, was mixed with (I think) sour cream and (I know) flour at an excruciatingly slow rate, to prevent, by my translation, 'life via air,' which better translators (ie:people who can actually speak both Polish and English) have since called' curdling', but whatever. Pour some water from the boiling meat into the blood, stir it, then pour it all over the 'goose' meat.

This woman threw a small fistfull of sugar into the pot like she hated it and said something I could only construe as a curse on my flesh as she did.

Serve and eat.

Sorry my measurements are either nonexistent or totally unspecific, but the whole 'goose' fed four of us, which included one smallish woman, me (something like 200 pounds) and two elderly folks who ate more than me, with marginal leftovers.

Ducks, chickens don't make much of a difference, so far as I could tell, but beware, I'm not much of a gourmand.

Enjoy if you dare.


Steve Bodio said...

I bet those of us that cook seriously (if that is the word) could fake it from this (;-))

Swan? I wonder if it was a Chinese or "swan" goose, a kind of domestic goose. A real swan would be medieval even for eastern Europe...

Matt Mullenix said...

What a great post! Phillip this one is my favorite of yours. Esp:

"I'm trying to be at the mercy of new places."


Phillip Grayson said...

Thank you, Mr Mullenix.
And yeah, it almost certainly wasn't a real swan, I may have stretched my incredulity a bit.