Wednesday, 20 April 2016 15:00

Tripe, chicken necks and tea in the crypt

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Had it been a recipe contest, tripe might be a hard winner to swallow.

But when holiday-food stories began to come in for chance to win a copy of the Caribbean-set murder mystery, “Island in the Clouds,” I soon found myself with a literary feast that included, you guessed it, thymus gland.
“… my husband and I have fairly eclectic and adventurous palates,” wrote Alice Gro. “In fact, my husband has stated that the only food he will not try is tripe.
“Some years ago we were traveling by car through Germany to Provence, France. Along the way we were enjoying the local foods and wines of the regions we passed through. With my Mennonite background I found my German was good enough to make pretty good choices in the restaurants. We entered France from Strasbourg and our first stop was the lovely city of Dijon.
“It was mid-afternoon, so we decided to stop for a snack and our first French wine at a lovely sun-dappled restaurant patio. ‘Leave it to me,’ I said when we were handed an all-French menu. After all, I had had one year of College French. With some confidence I selected a couple of ‘small plates’ that I thought would go nicely with the red wine my husband ordered.
“When the first dish arrived – you guessed it! – it was a plate of tripe, beautifully napped in a golden Dijon sauce. Oh my! What a dilemma for the husband: abandon this incredibly delicious smelling tripe dish, or abandon his aversion? Well, we are foodies after all, and yes, we did hold our breaths and dip into this amazingly redolent dish. And yes, it was amazing! We tucked right in and then cleaned up the sauce with our crusty bread so there was nary a smear left on the plate.”
For its beautiful telling, and for convincing me to consider tripe if ever I’m in France, Alice has won the prize.
There were, however, also some deliciously good stories that take the cake as runners-up.
“We were sitting at a rustic picnic table enjoying first of the season radishes,” wrote Marion S., “I went to take a second bite of my radish and half (yes half) a worm was wiggling back at me.”
Marion, I wish I couldn’t relate.
Meanwhile, Alice Gro recalled a second vacation story, “a month long sail along the fragrant Windward Islands of the Caribbean [where we] found anchorage for the night in the stunning little harbour of Bequia. I can recall the brightly painted cottages along the shore, the warm humid tropical air, and steel drums easing the soft evening breezes.  
“As it turned out our boat had some mechanical issues, and we were obligated to spend several days at this anchorage. Taking our little dinghy ashore…we all converged at the Roti stand…[and] discovered three types of rotis:
1.  Local (with bones - chicken necks, backs, and bits of dark meat
2.  Goat
3.  Boneless (for the "softies"  i.e. tourists)”
Chicken necks?
Yes, chicken necks.
Tripe, however, still wins the prize, while honorary mention belongs to Kay Mori, who inspired this week’s recipe when she wrote:
“Recently I was in London where my granddaughter treated us to English Tea at St. Paul's Cathedral. It was a wonderful experience and I laughingly say that ‘We had tea in the crypt,’ because that is where the tearoom is.”
From the crypt, Kay gathered secrets of an English Tea, and now treats friends to “cucumber, salmon and egg salad sandwiches (with the crusts removed), scones with strawberry jam and double Devon cream [available at Safeway], and meringues and cupcakes.”
Thank you so much to everyone who entered!
Petite Vanilla Bean Scones
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla seeds.
Whisk together flour and baking powder.
Blend in half of the flour into butter mixture, followed by the milk, then the remaining flour mixture, until incorporated.
Divide into 5 balls. Place on a floured surface and flatten to 3/4-inch thick rounds. Cut each into 4 triangles and arrange on Silpat-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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