Saturday, December 23, 2006

Miss C? "Burgoo"??? I Can Top That!

OK, this made me throw up a little in my mouth...
Burgoo is a stew-like soup of meat and vegetables that the settlers who poured through the Cumberland Gap survived on as they tamed this region. It featured whatever meat -- squirrel, rabbit or possum -- the backwoodsmen bagged on any given day.

But Owensboro in the western part of the state is now one of the few places where burgoo is still served in restaurants, at church picnics and barbecue cook-offs, albeit in a slightly updated form.

In many ways, burgoo is similar to Brunswick stew, another one-pot, slow-cooked dish popular in the south.
Actually, that sounds delish...find any animal, and use it in a stew.

Except modern Kentuckyians have, well....
Kentucky, the untamed western frontier when the American colonies declared independence in 1776, is struggling to keep a taste of its past alive -- a stew traditionally made from roadkill and veggies.
I can kind of imagine the dinner table conversation:

"Ma-aaa! There's a chunk of Michelin in the burgoo!"

"That's fibre, child, now chew and swaller!"
[U]nlike Brunswick stew, which has been embraced by epicures, burgoo is just a generation removed from its roots as a roadkill-and-veggie ragout. Indeed, in the late 1990s, during the scare over mad cow disease, health officials warned Kentuckians to stop eating squirrel brains, which, like squirrel meat, remains a something of a delicacy here.
Jeez, and I thought lutefish was nauseating.

For those of you too bored to click the link, "lutefish" (or 'fisk, depending on what Scandahoovian country your ancestors ran away from) is a soft gelatinous mound of fish..."stuff"...that's been soaked, first in ice cold water, then in a mixture of cold water and lye (yes, you read that correctly), then soaked in more cold water to remove the lye (found in birch ashes) and most of the nutritional value. Finns do all this outside (wisely), so our ipeäkala (roughly translated "not on your fucking life!") has to be covered with a layer of congealed reindeer fat to protect it from critters. The fat keeps the raccoons from getting to your delicacy, but your on your own to get rid of the pesky family of Norwegians that will take residence under your porch.

This of course adds an oily texture to the lutefish. It's important to not overlye the fish, or it turns into soap. My mom was never much of one for rules, so this might explain why I don't like Christmas so much, and also why I never give soap as a present. It's too tempting to open and eat.

As it turns into a jelly, it can basically be stored frozen forever, meaning a fish done in the 1800s would probably still be edible today, if stored in Santaland up in the permafrost of the Sami region. Of course seeing as nobody actually likes eating lutefish, there's a good reason why that sample from the 1800s would still survive to this day.

Once the fish is prepared, it is then soaked again with water, and cooked on its own for a few minutes. This is to ensure it doesn't infect any edible matter in the kitchen. Traditionally, the fish is then pounded between two pine boards. Epicures throw the fish away and eat the boards, but not us Finns, noooooooo, we're far too tough for that pansy way out!

Rumour has it that the Vikings once pillaged an entire city in France without drawing a sword, merely carrying a barrel of lutefish in front of them.

Serving lutefish involves preparing a cream sauce made of heavy cream and a strong laxative, as the fish has a tendency to, um, gum up the works. Also, never eat lutefish if you plan to be around an open flame twelve hours later.

The cream sauce, with a fresh ground pepper garnish, serves to mask the taste of the fish, and also to provide some meager nutritional value to the meal. Lutefish is served with boiled potatoes, mostly because no self-respecting vegetable would be caught dead on the same plate, but also to add a hint of colour to the bland off-white colour scheme of your feast.

So, to periphrase Letterman...."Burgoooo....luuuuutefish...burgoooooo...luuuuutefish"

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