Food for Thought
Halloween eats: Forget candy, how about some yummy, gourmet brains!
Looking for a ghoulish dish for Halloween? When it comes to horror food you’ve got some choices.
But we’re going to disqualify Team Vamp, because drinking blood doesn’t really count as eating, and side with Team Zombie because we love watching George Romero’s lumbering virus ridden creatures calling out “Braaaaaaains” as they lurch toward us.
Why do zombies eat brains? Probably because it’s gross and horror films want to gross us out. The original zombie legends, those voodoo reanimated creatures, didn’t eat anything, but in American films the zombies created from a virus eat the uninfected, particularly they nosh on their brains.
Well, not everyone thinks so. In many cultures people do eat brains. Although, usually, not human ones unless it’s some cannibalistic tribal ritual. But people do eat all kinds of animal brains around the world.
“When I was in the Air Force in Africa there was a place called Meat Me at the Carnivore,” says Jerry Lasco, CEO of Lasco Enterprises LLC, which owns The Tasting Rooms and Max’s Wine Dive. “We ate monkey brains there. But I was kinda put off by it.”
Which might explain why there are no brains on Max’s menu. But for those non-zombies craving a little gray matter munchie, you don’t have to go to as far as Africa to find them.
While they’re not so easy to scare up now, brains have in the past appeared on such high-profile menus as those at Cafe Annie, Ousie’s Table and at a whole lot of Mexican eateries and, of course, they’ve popped up on the menu at Feast on occasion because you know those folks never waste a good offal.
Brains are very fatty, high in protein and not very flavorful on their own. But cooked the right way, they can be tasty, if a bit on the mushy side.
“It’s extremely good,” Molina’s Cantina’s general manager, Carlos Martinez, says. “My dad taught me to eat it growing up in Mexico City. You’d take a pound of brain, sauté it with some cilantro and onions, wrap it in a taco, stick a toothpick to keep it together and deep-fry it. Sesos (brain) tacos are very delicious.
“But you can’t get it at many taquerias anymore,” he says. “Most dropped them about six or seven years back because of the mad cow disease.”
De Buey Y Vaca taqueria at the Airline flea markets still sells them and you can often buy whole cow heads at some of the Mexican meat markets around town and try it yourself at home.
What’s that you say, scared of the mad cow?
Than check out Indian restaurants like Indika, where Anita Jaisinghani serves up goat brain and onion masala on brioche. I have a friend from Mumbai who remembers his mother making a goat brain curry masala for the family and who says goat brains are in demand from local halal farms here. Yes, we have halal farms and markets. Like Mediterranean Meat Market and Slaughter in Hitchcock.
OK, we’ve covered human, monkey, cow and goat brains. What’s left?
Why the popular porcine, of course.
And if you wanna talk pig (eating, not Latin), you wanna talk to Morgan Weber of Revival Meats.
“Lightly floured, sautéed on high, mix it with scrambled eggs, add a little salsa, throw it in a taco and call it a day,” Weber says of pig brains. “I’ll eat brains all day long.”
Weber says that most American aren’t really into eating brains because of the shock value and the creamy texture, but mostly, it’s a simple reason.
“Because we don’t have to,” he says. “We’re extremely wasteful when it comes to butchering here. In other countries they don’t have the luxury of throwing away parts of the animal that are edible. Here, we throw out a lot.”
Which explains why Weber is hosting a European seam butchery workshop next month with Austrian butchers Christoph and Isabell Wiesner, who will teach participants how to cut up a whole pig without wasting any of the good stuff. Two two-day sessions, Nov. 5-6 and 7-8, will be held, and there are a few spots still available. Cost is $500 and you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a reservation.
Snacks, of course, will be provided. And yes, there will be pig brain and scrambled egg tacos on the menu. Because if you’re up to cutting up a whole pig, you’re definitely up to eating its brains.
But there are some things even Weber won’t eat.
“Lung for one,” he says. “I don’t ever want to eat that again, it’s like eating a sponge.”
So why not cook up some brains for your Halloween party? Of course, if you can’t stomach the idea of eating this kind of offal, or if you’re planning on joining the Zombie Walk Houston and want something that looks more like a brain than a taco to nosh on as you lurch along, try this. Gummy brains are supposed to be very fruity and sweet, unlike the real things.
Happy Halloween and happy eating. Bwahaaaaaa!