HALLIE EPHRON: There was a wonderful piece in the New York Times last week about chicken skin. There are, the writer observed, white-meat people and dark-meat people. And then there are people (like me) whose dream is to roast a chicken and then rip off and devour its crisp skin before the bird makes it to the table.
My mother-in-law would have been aghast. Health conscious, she always skinned the chicken before she cooked it. My grandmother was the opposite. She saved bits of chicken fat and skin trimmed from the bird and cooked it up in a frying pan, rendering all the fat (schmaltz) until all that was left were crispy bits (gribenes) like chicken-skin potato chips. Mmmm.
I also love the green stuff (tomalley) in lobsters which I gather is the lobster's liver and pancreas and which the rest of my family proclaims "gross." Fortunately they let me harvest if from their lobster bodies. Love the fatty tail of a broiled lamb chop. Potato skin. Aspic. Blood sausage. Head cheese. Raw green beans and fresh cilantro.
I do draw the line. Fish eyes, uh uh.
What about you? Do you have a passion for tastes that others would prefer to pass up? Where do you draw the line?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Almost everything you mentioned grosses me out. I need a glass of wine before I can even touch a piece of raw chicken. (Raw turkey requires two glasses.) Don't think I'm that good at batting clean up for someone else's dinner - oh wait...potato skins. Love 'em...they're the best part and my husband always leaves them.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: (You're so funny, Hallie...) Tomalley? No. Oh, no. I've even used my cloth napkin to wipe the last disgusting (sorry) traces from the otherwise-delicious lobster.
However: Of, course, potato skins. Plus, I love the crispy really-burned french fries. Raw green beans, wonderful. Cold pizza, yum.
I've finished off day-old lattes--I mean, because the milk is steamed it's all fine. The lime from my gin and tonic, all saturated with tonic and gin? Delish. When salad has the dressing already on it and it's been in the fridge overnight and it's all wilty--that's still good, far as I'm concerned. (I'm a cheap date.)
HALLIE: Am I the only one that thought Hank was referring to day old LATKES?
Nevertheless, I see a pattern. Crispy. Fatty. Salty.
RHYS BOWEN: I'm feeling a little queasy. Only a couple of items I confess to eating--raw cilantro and parsley when I'm cooking. Skins on baked potatoes. And very crispy chicken skin (although I don't eat it any longer).
I've even lost my taste for those traditionally gross English things like kidneys since my children took biology and described in detail what those kidneys had been doing. But I do like sweetbreads, if I don't have to cook them myself.
When I was a kid, living in a very cold house, I used to love toast and dripping--you know, the pan drippings from a beef or lamb roasts. I once ate brains. It was delicious until I knew what it was!
HALLIE: Laughing, Rhys - I remember when I saw "cervelles" on a french menu and ordered it because I thought it was veal.
JAN BROGAN: I was one of those kids who wouldn't eat the peas on the plate if they touched the mashed potatoes -- and I loved both of them separately, so you can see what you're dealing with.
But I do love chicken and turkey skin, crispy. Burnt cheese is actually superior to the moderately melted, and I used to prefer soggy salad, like Hank, but not anymore. Mostly, if it grosses anyone out -- it grosses me out first.
LUCY BURDETTE: I saw that same article Hallie, and did not clip out the recipe for chicken skin tacos! For someone who's writing about a food critic, I have pretty picky tastes. Not big on fishy fish (like the sardines Hallie adores), or entrails of any kind, or raw fish or meat. Nothing with obvious suckers either:). In fact the more I read about the life of a food critic, the more grateful I don't actually have the job!
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I've found that my lack of enthusiasm for certain --I'm trying to think of a word that describes the foods that Hallie is talking about here. Edgy cuisine? Acquired taste comestibles?-- certain foodstuffs is balanced by others' love of the same.
So I don't eat roasted chicken skin, but my son loves it. When we have lobster, Ross gets my tomallay. On the other hand, I have a weird enthusiasm for fried Spam (TM) that no one else shares. Also? Peanut butter and pickles. No, not just when I'm pregnant.
Reading culinary history, I've come to realize how many of these now out-of-favor, odd-bits-of-the-animal dishes our ancestors ate because of their frugality. They couldn't afford to throw away any calories. Did you know in New England in the 18th and 19th century fishing families ate cod cheeks? Cod cheeks! Try serving that at the next Crime Bake.
HALLIE: Ahem. My husband eats the cheeks of any fish that's on the table. They're delicious. And a delicacy! (Those old timers used to eat oysters and lobsters, too, because they were so plentiful and not considered "real food" by the wealthy.) Cod cheeks taste like lobster-y scallops. And cod has the virtue of being large so it's got sizeable cheeks.
And may I say: Fried Spam, ICK!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm in the chicken skin camp and my DH is in the other--he won't eat it even when it has all the seasoning in it. Better for him, I suppose, but I think he's missing out. I like all sorts of weird things, and have no objection to tentacles, or fish with the eyes still in. It was a big treat for me when I was a little girl to eat the chicken heart. And I love sweetbreads. My mother fixed them regularly. Don't know about the lobster goop, however, as in Texas lobster doesn't figure on our menu very often.
Julia is certainly right about the frugality. Just since my childhood, people have stopped eating all sorts of things that they used to eat because they couldn't afford to waste food or calories. Now they fill up on pop and junk food instead, so I don't think we've made culinary strides here. If I were a food critic, Lucy, I suspect I'd be very vocal about this:-)
HALLIE: Oh, that's something I forgot to mention. I never ever ever eat junk food. Except, uh, the occasional (bag of) Cheetohs. And those really dark potato chips. And...
So what about you all, gentle eaters? Are there foods you relish that others eschew?