My mother’s tongue

My mother' tongue

My mother heaved the 2-pound tongue onto the serving dish and I offered to skin it.

I eat mainly vegetarian food but I skinned that tongue like a pro, feeling elemental and respectful like a hunter.

My mother foraged for it in Waitrose. The label bore two marks: UK and EU.

My mother went to the customer service desk to check its provenance.

“Cured in Bedford,” said the assistant, “so it must be British.”

“But where did the animal come from?” said my mother.

He checked with the buyer who sent word the animal was UK-bred.

“So why the EU label? It’s still a mystery,” said Ingrid Rose when my mother told us the story as we ate.

My mother said she used to pickle tongue with saltpetre. Now it’s hard to find.

Pickling salt beef and tongue are traditional ways to preserve meat. No refrigeration in the shtetl.

My mother’s tongue – a childhood memory.

My mother talked about the cooking of the 2lb tongue (for £8, 8 servings).

She disagreed with the label’s instructions: to throw away the water after bringing the tongue to the boil seemed a terrible waste, she said.

She and Evelyn Rose are of one mind: wash the tongue well in cold water – there is no need for waste.

Cooking salted/pickled/cured tongue: water to cover + garlic + 1 onion skinned and cut in half + peppercorns + bay leaves. Simmer and cover for 2 hours and 30 minutes. Then drain and skin.

The potato pie: mashed potatoes + 1 tablespoon of goose fat (“My mother used chicken fat,” says my mother) + 2 eggs + salt and pepper plus my mother’s latest addition: chives.

Back to the meat.

What do you want to preserve?

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7 responses to “My mother’s tongue

  1. We had tongue this week, but it wasn’t pickled or salted. Used slow cooker with marsala and bone broth and bay leaf. Was tasty and tender.


  2. Pingback: My mother’s tongue

  3. realfoodlover

    I don’t know if it was the tongue or the title I gave this post, but I had a strange dream after writing it: a fish trying to leave a stream with its catch – a fish in its mouth – but being attacked by other fish for doing so. Violence. I feel guilty for writing about meat (and perhaps for eating it) – or does it goes deeper than that? Sorry, can’t stop, must rush to see my shrink.


  4. Tongue brings back childhood memories for me too. As a virtual vegetarian I now cannot believe that I actually enjoyed the very particular taste of tongue simmered with assorted veg & herbs (carrot, celery, onion, bayleaf, parsley, peppercorns). My mother bought fresh tongue and always cooked it in this way; my daughters refuse to even contemplate the idea of eating a recognisable body part. Preserving was an art beyond Mother’s skills, but one we will need to take up again soon. I wonder how many home economists would be able to pass on these well-nigh forgotten arts? We need to rethink the role of home economist don’t we?


  5. realfoodlover

    Yes, home economists will soon need to take into account low-carbon cooking and what ARE we going to eat when the oil runs out honey? Thanks, Diana, and for your culinary childhood memory. I too eat mostly vegetarian dishes…but a vegetarian I am not. I like to keep my options open!


  6. realfoodlover

    Wow, I like the sound of both these recipes: marsala and bone broth; and tongue braised in red wine. The alcohol and slow cooking would really tenderise the meat. Thanks, Cathy. Thank you, Becky. Always great to have new visitors and I would look forward to visiting your respective blogs soon.


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