Would You Eat Part of a Cow's Stomach?
If you’re like me, the thought of eating tripe or anything made from a cow’s stomach generates an immediate shudder of revulsion. Ew! Why would I want to eat that? Yet in some places it’s very popular, and if I want to truly honor where my food is coming from, shouldn’t I support the use of all the parts of the cow, not just the choice cuts?
All of this ran through my mind when I decided to go to Florence and discovered that tripe is a favorite dish there, as is lampredotto (the difference is which stomach is used – tripe is white and comes from the first or second stomach, lampredotto is brown and comes from the fourth stomach). One of the things I love about travel is the chance to try different foods, but I wondered if this would be pushing it too far. Maybe I’d just stick with gelato.
Then I remembered that this is not the first time I’ve confronted food I thought I didn’t like. When I was a kid, I didn’t like lots of things: asparagus, Brussels sprouts (even though I don’t think I ever had them) fish, shrimp, really any seafood except for scallops, and more. Shrimp particularly unnerved me, because I had once gotten sick after eating some, and I assumed they would always make me sick. I stuck with foods that seemed safer – the fact that they were more fatty and sugary was an added bonus.
As I got older, though, and especially once I lost weight, my tastes changed. Sugar and fat no longer had such a draw on me, and things that were earthier, more bitter, sometimes became appealing. I started testing my assumptions and made some unexpected discoveries.
I love asparagus and Brussels sprouts! In fact, I like most vegetables, depending on preparation, although I still haven’t fallen in love with fiddleheads. Fish, too, is much more appealing, and I even like shrimp. But it took a great deal of courage for me to try shrimp again, and be objective about it, instead of simply deciding ahead of time I wouldn’t like it.
That’s when I realized that it wasn’t really fair to say that I disliked tripe without once giving it a try. Maybe I’d hate it, but how could I know that if I just judged it based on my automatic reaction and cultural expectations? And really, why is the thought of that so much worse than eating any other muscle of a cow, which I consume without flinching?
So when given the chance to try lampredotto as part of my food and wine tour, I gave it a shot. Not many people in our group did, so someone else got a few photos of me.
Taking my first bite
Trying to put aside my preconceptions and really focus on the food.
I liked it!
I never thought I’d say that: I enjoyed eating cow’s stomach. It’s not something I’d eat a lot, or go out of my way for; my cultural habits are still pretty heavily ingrained. But at least I gave it a try.
As I thought about it, I realized that from that sense it was, in actuality, a great example of one aspect of mindful eating. I allowed myself to decide how I felt about it, instead of just being guided by other opinions, and I approached it with respect. Doing so gave me greater confidence in general about food, and how and what I choose to eat.
And that freedom, to eat the foods we love instead of what we’re told to love, in the amounts and times of our choosing – isn’t it worth a little risk?