I have never eaten stomach. Like many of my “Tasty Tuesday” experiences with taboo foods over the course of my “I have never...” year, eating stomach is not something I ever intended to do. That stated, in my pursuit of learning more about different cultures and their cuisine, I knew I would be trying a lot of strange foods during the course of my year of new experiences. Although eating stomach was not on my initial list of such foods, I decided I would try pork stomach when I came across several dishes containing the organ while perusing the menu at a local Asian restaurant, Fugu, during my previous experience eating kidney. As a result, I tracked down an open “Tasty Tuesday” in my “I have never...” calendar and set aside time to experience eating stomach for the very first time.
With the breadth of new experiences I have taken on as of late, the evening of my encounter with pork stomach came much faster than I anticipated. After making plans to meet my circus arts and unicycling friend, Cory, at Fugu for a meal this evening, Rachael and I headed down to the restaurant and settled in for the meal. As we waited for Cory to arrive, Rachael and I poured over the expanse of options available in the menu, doing our best to isolate the dish containing pork stomach that seemed most appealing. Eventually, that resulted in us determining the spicy pork stomach would likely offer the fullest and most tolerable experience with the food, which set up my new experience for the evening.
After waiting a bit for Cory to arrive, we ultimately placed our orders with our server. Given the theme for the evening, Rachael decided to be slightly adventurous with me by ordering an obscure octopus dish, and Cory followed suit by ordering pork hoot, a form of elbow meat, when he arrived at the restaurant. As planned, I stuck with my order of pork stomach and did my best to avoid any presumptuous thoughts as we waited for the food to arrive.
|Well, here we go...|
A little conversation about recent experiences and forthcoming events was enough to carry us through until our server returned with our dishes. As she set my plate of stomach down in front of me I was quick to cautiously look over the meal. The sight of the long, thin strands of stomach meat initially set me back in my seat. The pale brown pieces of organ were each lined with two layers of stomach interior, and their appearance made it obvious the food maintained a springy texture. Although nothing about the meal looked appealing, I knew I couldn’t let my visual assessment of the stomach deter me from my goal. As a result, I closed my eyes and worked through the now familiar process of preparing myself for the unknown.
After working through my remaining hesitation, I plunged my chopsticks into the dish and lifted a piece of stomach before my face. As the piece of organ hung before me it separated slightly, revealing a stringy binding material holding the layers of the stomach together. It was disturbing, but I couldn’t let it stop me from following through on my objective. Realizing it was time to act, took a deep breath and brought the chopsticks toward my face. With a hint of reluctance in my voice I muttered, “Well, here goes nothing,” before placing the stomach meat into my mouth. Almost immediately, a blend of spices and a savory, almost fatty, flavor rolled across my tongue. To my surprise, the texture of the pork stomach wasn’t as rubbery as it appeared, and the taste was more than tolerable. It was actually quite good.
|Shocked... and disgusted|
|The first taste|
As the meal progressed, I felt my aversion to the idea of eating stomach slowly waning with each tasty bite of my meal. While the feeling didn’t disappear entirely, the taste of the food was enough to overwhelm any lingering hesitation I had about the pork stomach. In turn, I picked away at my plate until I was feeling full. By the time our meal drew to a close, I had eaten more than half of my meal, which speaks to the taste and quality of pork stomach. After eating the meal, I can honestly say I understand why many cultures use pork stomach as the anchor to many dishes. It offers a unique variety of flavors I think many Americans would actually enjoy if we could work past our stigmas and picky eating habits. That is saying a lot considering the way I felt about the food leading up to tonight’s experience. I had assumptions that were completely wrong, and I was only able to figure that out by taking on the task of trying something new.
Tonight’s experience eating pork belly was a good reminder of the ways my judgment can lead to some baseless, and altogether incorrect, expectations about the unknown. Like several of my previous experiences trying new foods many would define as inedible, eating pork stomach proved to me there is plenty to be gained by breaking down our assumptions and trying something new. Sure, tonight’s experience was a simple meal prepared by a local restaurant, by the little lessons I can take away from experiences like the one I had tonight provide more than enough impetus to keep exploring the unknown. With a little more than 100 days left in my “I have never...” year, those small sources of motivation will go a long way in seeing this journey through, and that will only serve to make me a fuller, more cultivated person.