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Mar 19, 2008 06:45 PM

When Did Liver Lose Its Luster?

I love liver. I love chicken and duck liver in a mousse or pate, and calves liver sautéed with garlic, vinegar, mustard and onions. I understand that traditionally liver has ranked above all other offal as one of the most prized culinary delights. And isn't "Rich Man's Disease" called that because it was mostly the well off at one time who could obtain and consume liver regularly (which among other things can contribute to said disease)?
So my question is why in America today is liver not regarded as highly as it once was apparently and when did this first begin to occur here?

Note: I say liver today is not regarded highly because:
1) Liver is cheap
2) I rarely see liver on restaurant menus
3) Liver is often presented in mainstream culture as an undesirable food item


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  1. Foie gras is highly desirable, and that's liver. Ankimo is delicious if you can find it at your local sushi bar.

    I suspect that cheaper, more mundane liver from beef or pigs isn't more popular because it is cheaper, and more mundane- that is to say, it is not cleverly marketed and priced high enough to override the mainstream's aversion to offal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Humbucker

      You are absolutely right. I should have been clearer. I meant to focus on calves liver, and the like, that would be served as a main entree.
      I'm not a food historian obviously but I recall calves liver (i.e. liver and onions) being more popular when I was a very young child (mid 70s), prepared both in homes and in restaurants. I would like to know how popular was it at it's height in the US and when did it slip?


    2. I think it has to do w/ liver as a filter of the blood and all the nasty, nasties it filters out and is very high in cholesterol. That said, we have a local place where liver is the Wed. Night special for only $5.95!

      1. Thin sliced, dredged in flour, dipped in egg and quickly pan fried. Yum. But you're right, it's not generally on restaurant menus and lots of people (my better half being one of them) can't stand it. So I don't get to eat it much, other than as paté at home and foie gras in high-end restaurants. I suspect too many people had it overcooked and horrible-tasting as kids (eat it, it's good for you) and never got over it.

        I don't think there will ever be a liver marketing program because it would require different producers (poultry, pork, beef) to get together to market what is essentially a very small portion of the overall product.

        Although I HAVE seen liver and onions on restaurant menus at times, usually at family style places, for a fairly low price (although I must admit I've never ordered it, mainly for fear of it being overcooked and horrible-tasting).

        2 Replies
        1. re: hsk

          I wonder if Kobe/Wagyu liver tastes better than run-of-the-mill beef liver. If so, perhaps it could be marketed as as four-legged foie gras.

          1. re: hsk

            Yes I think that our American obsession with doneness whether it be of salmon, steak, or calves liver can make each really less appetizing. As a matter of fact an overcooked liver might be the worst of the three because the texture gets really strange (not merely dry) along with the sweetness being eliminated.

          2. plenty of liver to be had at delis - chopped liver and always liver and onions.

            1. Ground beef is cheap and quite popular. When I was little and knew nothing about popular opinion or where liver came from, I hated the stuff. At least in steak form. Pates are another matter.