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The Scrivener: Horses And Other Food

Brian Barratt introduces us to a dish made with horsemeat called mortadella then reveals that he is not as carnivorous as he was in former years.

An Italian friend was telling me this morning how her grandmother in Italy loved mortadella made with horsemeat. She herself wasn't too keen on it. Wikipedia has an informative article on mortadella but it doesn't mention horses. In a few blogs and other unauthoratitve websites, people declare strongly that mortadella known in some foreign countries as bologna or polony is not made with horsemeat. Well, I've just been told that it can be, and the information came straight from the horse's mouth, as it were.

We kill cows, sheep, lambs, pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, fish and other animals so that we can eat them. When I was small, I didn't realise that the tasty rabbit pie we enjoyed for Sunday dinner had previously been the cuddly furry pet in a cage down the garden, of course.

In Australia we kill and eat kangaroos and emus. Crocodiles, too. There are thought to be about a million camels here in Australia, and camel meat export is being planned. In some Asian countries, dog meat is popular. Guinea pigs are on the menu in some South American countries. And we can't forget that the Japanese eat a lot of whale meat, in the interests of Science, of course.

During the war World War II when there was a shortage of meat in Britain, my mother bought some whale meat and cooked it the same way as she would cook beef. We agreed that we didn't like it very much. It was like fishy, tough steak. But we probably had it several times in that period when you just had to eat what was available.

I've eaten goat meat, when it was served up as mutton at a restaurant in Kitwe, Zambia. No problem, except for the misleading description. There is a thriving goat meat industry in Australia, which I understand supplies about half of the world's needs.

In the 1940s, my Dad was keen on black pudding, as blood sausage is called in the UK. I liked the smell when it was being fried, but I never dared to eat it because I knew what it was made of. However, I had no qualms about brains on toast.

We also had cod's roe for afternoon tea, sometimes, with bread and butter. In those days, you had bread and butter with nearly everything, to make it go further. Roe was available in small tins as recently as 40 years ago, in local supermarkets here in Melbourne. I confess that I liked it when it was well fried in slices. I now know it was very high in cholesterol, but my personal reading has remained low over the years so I don't think it damaged me.

Those of us who were born south of the border were, and are, repelled by the idea of eating the famous Scottish dish, haggis.
Well, how do you like the idea of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, minced up with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and wrapped in the animal's stomach?

On the other hand, people in many countries eat chopped up pieces of a cow's stomach. We call it tripe. I recall a family I lived with, as a young man, in the late 1950s. Mother asked me if I liked tripe, and I said no I did not. She asked me if I had ever eaten it. I had to reply, no I had not. Well, quoth she, I'll serve it one night and you won't know what it is.

A few months later, came the evening when she served up a stew with a lovely aroma, lots of vegetables, and what looked like little squares of flannel face-washers floating around in it. When we had finished, Mother asked me what I had just eaten. Tripe, I declared. Chewy and with a bland but suspicious taste. And that was that. She didn't try again.

Nowadays, more than halfway along the road from 70 to 80, I eat chicken and white fish for my meat intake. And a bit of red meat from time to time. But I confess that I have not eaten rabbit for many, many years. I wouldn't mind eating a bit of horsemeat but I cannot face the idea of eating one of those dear little furry cuddly rabbits even if there are hundreds of millions of them wreaking havoc in Australia.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2012.

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