This was first published in The Chautauqua.
On The Tip of the Tongue
Most of what I have written about have been our adventures on the farm and growing food. However the bigger adventures often happen in the kitchen and on the table.
Health and sustainability are important values for me and that related to what I eat and how I eat it so that has meant eating more organ meats and 'odd bits' from the animals we raise and butcher. When we had our beef done I bravely brought home the tongue and other parts that are often left behind. I figured I would get to cooking them on days when I had time to prep – emotionally and mentally as well as the right ingredients.
I've tried cow's tongue before. On our honeymoon in Costa Rica we found a little restaurant with home-style cooking that we visited a couple times. When I saw cow's tongue on their menu, I thought of the one sitting in my freezer and knew I had to order it. When it came to the table, I was delivered a great smelling plate with a few slices of meat covered in a tomato, pepper and onion sauce – they did not just lay out the tongue on a bed of lettuce. Only if you looked close enough could you get a sense, from the texture of the skin, of where the meat came from. I ate it and enjoyed it and thought it didn't look too complicated to prepare.
But I still hadn't cooked our own tongue up until this week. It's sat in the freezer while I waited for the right time. Finally, I just decided to do it. I thawed it, boiled it with herbs and spices, and sliced it up like a roast – served with horseradish. Indeed, roast beef is probably what you can pass it off for to the squeamish or uncertain. We both had to pause a few times and found not looking at it made it easier. It made an enjoyable meal as we laughed at our own reactions and how it wasn't taste or texture but purely mental notes that made us hesitate. Now that I've done it once, it's not likely to take much to get me to cook the next one. It's certainly easier for me to handle than liver! Who knows – when I am fighting the winter blues, maybe cooking up some cow's tongue will be all I need to do to connect back to the warmth and sun of Costa Rica. Maybe.
Directions: Wash tongue whole but don't worry about peeling or removing outer skin; place in pot and cover with water; add bay leaf, peppercorns, celery, onions, garlic and salt; bring to boil and then simmer for 3-4 hours. Remove tongue from water and peel off the outer skin; slice like roast beef as thin or think as you wish. Serve with horseradish or other sauces alongside vegetables.