Wednesday, December 14, 2011

First Tastes: Baked Sweetbreads and Mushrooms

When I started this project, my goal was to make every recipe in the box, take pictures, taste it, and then write a story about it. I was excited because it would push the limits of my comfort zone and force me to try new things. I thought this was a great idea – until I came across the card for Baked Sweetbreads and Mushrooms.

I knew I had heard the term “sweetbread” before, but I couldn’t remember the exact definition. My sweet tooth began conjuring images of cake with chocolate fudge drizzled – no poured – all over it. But there was this nagging voice of reason giggling in the back of my mind telling me that my fantasy was about to be destroyed. Somewhere deep in my memory vault was the definition of sweetbreads, but it was too chicken to reveal itself. So I enlisted the help of Google to discover the truth…and immediately amended my goal for the blog.

I found a few variations on the definition, but basically sweetbreads are the thymus glands or pancreas of veal, beef, lamb and pork. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know I’m no Andrew Zimmern. This pushes the limits of my comfort zone a little too far and I’m just not brave enough to purchase these supposed delicacies, let alone bake them and put them in my mouth. But a recent commercial on TV sparked an idea for a different theme for this post.

If you’ve been watching NBC recently, then you’ve probably heard that they’ve resurrected the show Fear Factor, one of the original “reality” shows and probably one of the first places on American TV where people subjected themselves to horrifying stunts, such as eating live bugs or animal eyeballs, for a shot at a large chunk of prize money.

Thinking back to those early episodes of the show, when it was such a revolutionary idea to make people eat disgusting things for money, made me ponder the idea of “first tastes.” Lucy is starting to eat real food now and it’s fun to watch her reaction to different foods. 

Lucy's first taste of rice cereal -- this picture makes me crack up every time I see it.
 Everything is new – the texture, the smell, the taste – and everything needs to be examined thoroughly before it’s allowed to slip past her two teeth and down her throat. It’s been so long that I’ve tried something completely new that I’ve forgotten that feeling of hesitation and apprehension. She first pokes the item with her finger. If it is squishy and sticky, such as a banana, then it’s quickly rejected and sent to the floor for the dog to eat. If it is bread or something crunchy, like a cracker, then it’s carefully picked up and tentatively placed just inside her lips. And if it passes the test, then it’s gobbled up. Her little fingers work together furiously to grab as many pieces as possible and shovel them into her open mouth. Fortunately, the combination of her zeal and lack of coordination sends most of the pieces to her lap so she doesn’t choke on them. 

My little Irish lass gobbling down potatoes at McGuire's Irish Pub in Pensacola, FL.
Lucy’s a pretty adventurous eater. Aside from her aversion to certain textures, there really isn’t too much she won’t eat, or at least try. But I wonder if even she would be brave enough to try sweetbreads. Watching her explore the world has already rekindled so much in me that has lain dormant for way too long. Maybe I should take a lesson from her and give some new foods a try. But instead of taking the plunge and starting with sweetbreads, I think I’ll wade in and give Brussels sprouts a try instead. Does anyone have any good recipes to share?