Unknowingly I’ve always liked offal. This is not something that I always would have acknowledged. Offal is collectively known as the bits of the animal that most Australians (and lots of other nationalities) refer to as being dog food. The goodness of offal is something that I have rediscovered in Footscray, a place of excellence that is on my back doorstep.
Let me take you back to where I discovered my love of offal, not that I knew what it was. I grew up on a farm where we grew and butchered our own lamb. Killing and cutting up the sheep was something that I did with my Dad from an early age. I loved it, great fun and I kind of learned a skill, although I doubt my butchery skills would be good enough for anyone to give me a job doing it for a living. I also know the whole thing of appreciating where meat comes from.
But I digress. Lambs fry and kidneys, my first offal. My Dad doesnt and never did eat eggs (and I still dont know why?), he does however love a cooked breakfast. This means meat and toast, an excellent combination (I do however love eggs, just with meat and toast) . Killing a lamb always meant a set menu of offal for breakfast. The day after the kill there would be lambs fry for breakfast. This is liver. No my Dad is no gourmet chef, I think he may have dusted it in flour and sometimes it would have been accompanied by bacon (always a good thing) but it was still a great start to the day. A few days later there would be kidneys. I have always loved to eat kidneys, meaty and extra strong flavored fryer in a pan these little buggers are hard to beat (I have some in the freezer, might need to defrost some for breakfast). Breakfast with Dad was always good, seldom healthy, but good. Not offal related but still healthy, his other favorite is thickened cream on corn flakes. Try it, it’s still good.
So there is the history of me and offal. But I never would have called it offal. It was just breakfast meat. I think I then stopped knowingly eating offal for some years (I went to boarding school so they no doubt snuck some in). Then I moved to Melbourne and started partaking in Pho, otherwise know as asian noodle soup in Footscray. There you start with the chicken and beef combo soup, and over time progress through all other unknown cheap bits of animals. My favorite Footscray Pho joint – Hung Vuong Saigon, has all manner of offal available in their Pho, the most hard core has bits of everything, liver, tripe, fat, who knows, I think it’s called the combination soup? Its good but a bit hard-core. My favorite and most surprising bit of random animal in soup is tendon. The beef and tendon Pho and Van Huen is awesome. No sensible person would think that tendon should be a good thing to eat. All sensible people are wrong. Good god that shit is good. And cheap.
For more expensive tastes in offal, I’ve indulged in sweetbreads at Bar Laurinda on Little Collins st in the city. That place can make most anything taste awesome, but sweetbreads, hypothalamus glands i think? cooked with bread crumbs, currants and some kind of booze. That is one good thing. A simple, cheap, good thing. Not in Footscray but a good thing, not sure that they are a regular on the menu but they can do offal.
So tonight I continued my Footscray offal adventure but in a less offalcentric place, the Station Hotel. I caught up with a friend for dinner and we both chose the pigs trotter with sweetbreads (and a mash that had more butter than potato). The place is famous for steaks but who can resist pigs feet. OK lots of people, but neither of us had it before, but definitely will again. That was a truly excellent dinner. As with most of my offal experiences I don’t think it was healthy but it was really good. Damn it was good, and it went really well with the Mountain Goat Hightail Ale. Go there and try it if you dont believe me. If you are a bit soft, have a steak instead, still a great feed, but the pigs trotter wont dissapoint.
So now as I sip glass of my Stella Farmhouse ale and consider all the butter and fat, and how much I like offal I’m thinking about tomorrow when I meet a lady called Ebony. Ebony will be my personal trainer at the Gym I joined on Monday. This could end badly. I’m not certain how the combination of a love of offal, beer and a gym membership will go. Hmmm, be nice Ebony.