Ever eaten an ear?

“How can you not like oreja? It’s delicious, there’s nothing like it. And what’s more, the cartilage is good for your joints.”

Sergio is Galician through and through. Who else would take such pleasure crunching through the greasy cartilage of a pig’s ear? It’s been cooked, of course. Just like the snout (moro) and trotters (manitas) that are left waiting in front of me, waiting in the vain hope that I might muster up some sort of primeval appetite and force them down.

Needless to say, I don’t believe him. I find it hard enough to believe people eat such extremities, but to devour them with such relish is completely beyond me. The custom of eating all the different parts of a pig, or whatever animal you happen to have in the back yard, is easy enough to understand – in harsher times, it would have been imprudent to waste potentially life-giving nutrients. Today, however, Sergio and the thousands of other proud Galicians are not struggling to bear out the winter. I, however, am struggling to bear out the urge to retch.

The traditional dish in question, cocido, is by definition, a collection of boiled pig and chicken chunks. But surely the only reason for retaining the presence of the more unusual anatomical additions is if they’re actually tasty. Sergio says they are. I’m out to prove he’s faking it.

My instinct is always to say something tastes good, I’m either being polite or, in the case of the more unusual, I’m being macho. My theory being that people will always say something tastes greater than it actually is if it meets the following criteria;

1. It doesn’t induce an auto-eject response from any part of your ingestive or digestive system. It’s difficult to persuade someone you liked it if you’ve just deposited most of it back on the plate/table.

2. It is something that elicits a wider range of responses from other people, i.e. some people hate it.

I suppose it may have something to do with the desire to convert others to your way of thinking, or eating. If that fails, there remains the satisfaction that you can enjoy something that they can’t.

I’m not a fussy eater, very few food items have ever repulsed me and I left those repulsions, and childhood, behind a while ago. Or so I thought.

The question is, “Can you compare pig’s ear to brussel sprouts?”

Tastes better than it looks? I hope so.

Tastes better than it looks? I hope so.

Perhaps I’m betraying the inbuilt prejudice of someone who comes from a culinary culture¬† where ears and feet don’t play a dominant role. Would I be judging Sergio in the same way if we were talking about fried eggs, and I simply didn’t like fried eggs. I don’t see eggs as anything particularly unusual, I just don’t like them. Would I think Sergio was making them seem tastier than he truly believed? I think not. I think I’d just let him get on with it.

Seeing I won’t be making any advances on the ‘ear’, Sergio asks me to pass it over. Intrigue gets the better of me as he starts to wolf it down and so I ask to try “just a little bit”.

It’s remarkably plain, but as gristly as I’d imagined. I’m not going to ask for another slice but it’s certainly edible. However, the greasy blandness I feel on my tongue doesn’t correspond to the look of delight on his face. I still suspect he’s putting it on.

Ask anyone here what their favourite dish is and the answer will very often be pulpo, octopus to you and me. It’s good, chewy, tasty even, but it doesn’t blow my senses. Yet almost everyone who eats it will say it’s incredible. Why?

Ok, maybe some excitement-starved people really do go crazy for it. The majority, however, just want something to rave about. Why does anyone ever rave about any type of food? It’s like fine wine. Yes, there is a difference between good wine, bad wine and vinegar, but not quite the difference that many people would have you believe, advertising agents apart.

Perhaps it’s not a macho thing, but I think pride certainly comes into it in some form. We form relationships with certain foods, drinks, music, etc. and once they’ve become part of our lives we’re prepared to uphold and defend what they represent. I suppose it’s for this reason that I feel some sort of connection with Southern African beer, or Marmite, and will defend them to foreigners even if I hold no particularly strong opinion about either.

Perhaps the gusto with which Sergio devoured the ear was simply a manifestation of this, Galician-style. He’s not bothered that I don’t like his ears, nor does he want to convince me to eat them (less for him to chew on). He’s just emphasizing how unexceptional, and non-repulsive a dish it really is.

“Anyone fancy a trotter?”

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