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Why Do We Love Tongue But Think Brains Are Disgusting?

I wonder where these likes and dislikes spring from. I'd understand it if I disliked all organ meats because they were disgusting...but I love tongue (okay, okay, not an organ) and liver and can't stand sweetbreads or brains or kidneys. I actually do know when I decided brains were not for me. It was at a fancy dinner with my parents and their friends at a long-gone L.A. restaurant called Cafe de Paris. Somebody ordered brains. I didn't hear them. Shortly thereafter, a plate with a round object appeared. The round object was coated in mustard sauce. To my horror, as I watched, the sauce sank into the crenelations and I saw before me ....a BRAIN! Just like the one in the jar in Frankenstein movies. That was it! Now, years and years later I still have that revulsion whenever I think of eating brains.

Anybody have a clue?

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  1. There's a very real difference in texture between brains and tongue. Tongue is muscle, though it's a fine grain one. Sweetbreads and brains are quite soft, more like scrambled eggs. I haven't had kidneys in some time, but I recall the texture was reasonably firm. Other organ meats like liver and heart have a stronger, irony flavor, though the texture is different. Some people have complained about the flavor of hanger steak, which it might have picked up from nearby heart or kidneys.

    So some people are put off by mental associations. Others by unusual textures, or strong flavors, still others by poor preparations.

    paulj

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Well, the experience Joan had would talk me out of eating brains, for sure! Except I did eat some, by mistake, in a taco the other day. I guess they either misunderstood or else they had some brains to get rid of that night. Not that bad. My grandmother loved brains. I love sweetbreads and most other offal. I think Americans miss a lot when we eschew these meats.

    2. Brains do have that fatty rich taste. People just don't reach past the chips to finish the whole animal these days. Maybe things like cartilage, sweet breads, brains, grubs, and insect larvae become part of food culture because of desperate times. I'm glad I'm not that hungry.

      1. Because people are squeamish and a dish like liver and onions is far more likely to appear on the dinner table at home then say, brains. I know among South Asians (at least the ones I know), brains are much easier for many of them to down then sweatbreads and some other organ meats because that was what their parents made. Personally, the texture of brains throws me a bit but I can eat them and if I was served them at someone's house I would eat them no problem, but then again I disprove my theory because we almost never had offal at home. In fact, I only started eating absolutely anything when I was about 16-17. Poor preperation definitely turns a lot of people off from offal too. Not to mention that 90% of society is scared of anything but filet mignon.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JFores

          The image of the horrible movie where somebody was eating brains out of a severed monkey's head springs to mind. Or the equally horrible 'other' movie.

          I'll pass on brains, thanks. Having seen my father eat the brains and eyes of a roasted lamb's head as a kid did it for me.

          1. re: JFores

            I agree that this has a lot to do with it. My mother regularly served tongue (and prepared it quite well, even though she generally wasn't a very good cook) and liver, but not any other type of organ meats...so it wasn't a big stretch for me to start eating them in other cuisines as I got older and starting expanding my horizons, because I was already familiar with the taste.

          2. Maybe because brains have a very high fat content?

            8 Replies
            1. re: limster

              Do you know what the fat content of brain is? Because I read somewhere that tongue has a pretty high fat content as well -- in a 3 oz portion, there's 18 grams of fat! Pretty deceptive.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                'Unmentionable Cuisine' claims beef tongue has half the fat of Tbone steak. My observation is that the fat content varies with position in the tongue. The tip is leanest, the base of the root fattiest.

                The same book claims beef brain has 1/4 of the fat of Tbone, but it is high in cholesterol.

                The way I usually serve tongue, simmered till tender, then sliced and served with a spicy sauce, both portion size and fat content are lower than the typical steak serving.

                paulj

                1. re: paulj

                  I think that if you do boil tongue, you will remove a lot of the fat. That is my favorite way of eating it. Yesterday, I had tongue cured like bacon. It was pretty fatty. Indeed at the base, there was a strip of fat. Thanks for the info about the brain.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Last night I made a 'tongue rarebit', basically a Welsh rabbit sauce with beef tongue slices, over toast. I used beer, prepared mustard, and Worcester sauce, and a modest amount of sharp cheddar for the sauce, aiming for a sauce that was fairly savory and not too cheesy.. Worked pretty well.

                    paulj

                    1. re: paulj

                      That sounds delicious. Maybe a way I can get my husband to eat tongue.

                      And to add to my original post, with me it's not the texture. I absolutely adore chicken livers, which have a velvety soft texture and are not at all like tongue.

                      My grandpa used to say he never ate lamb because "I can taste da vool". I have heard some folks say they avoid kidneys for a similar reason.

                      Although I new recall I have fond memories of my mother's steak and kidney pie. She was a magnificent cook, though, and could make almost anything taste great

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        >>because "I can taste da vool".

                        Is that something that can be explained?

                        I almost forgot my favorite canned product. Correction, my favorite named canned product, I wouldn't buy one, oh no.

                        http://tinyurl.com/2gtgza

                        1. re: dolores

                          i think grandpa was saying "i can taste the wool," with an accent.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            Oh! Thanks, soupkitten, I had imagined something much worse.

            2. "Shortly thereafter, a plate with a round object appeared. The round object was coated in mustard sauce. To my horror, as I watched, the sauce sank into the crenelations and I saw before me ....a BRAIN! Just like the one in the jar in Frankenstein movies. That was it! Now, years and years later I still have that revulsion whenever I think of eating brains."

              Now that is hilarious. If I didn't already enjoy all organs, sweetbreads, and everything else, I'd be turned off by that description. On the other hand, the couple of times I've had brain, it wasn't served whole, sitting upright, and with a perfectly timed sinking sauce. You only needed a fog machine to get the complete atmosphere in place.