Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Today I am cooking tongue. I should say "Lengua" to make it sound more dignified, but it's tongue nonetheless - a huge cow's tongue around a foot long, still with the grizzly covering that needs to be peeled off. It's in boiling salted water right now, and later on I'll peel that outer skin off. That's the ugly looking part, with little pimply bumps, the sight of which can make a person reject eating tongue for life. But since I grew up eating Lengua Estofada and Lengua Escarlata and Lengua Con Setas, and no longer have the cook Menggay around, I have to do the dirty work. The sight of the ugly uncooked tongue doesn't bother me because when I look at it, I can imagine the cooked tongue on a platter, with velvety red-brown sauce covering it, some mushrooms, plantains, and onions, maybe carrots and sweet potatoes surrounding it. Very elegant. Mouthwatering.

I've learned to appreciate the ritualistic feeling of preparing the comfort foods of my youth. It feels healing, like I'm connecting to some part of myself that sometimes I forget is still there! The part that eats tongue!

I had a difficult time finding today's tongue. My Filipino market, Seafood City on Vermont, didn't have tongue; neither did Von's; and fortunately Albertson's in Santa Monica had tongue. The wonder of it is that it was inexpensive; it was only ten dollars for one cow's tongue. Think of it, one big cow gave up it's life so I can cook that tongue. I wouldn't give up my tongue for just ten dollars! But maybe it's cheap because many Americans do not eat tongue. I think only Deli's serve tongue, in sandwiches, and we have some friends who have distant memories of tongue being served in their homes, but they no longer serve them in their homes.

My American family does not eat tongue. That is an understatement. My American family abhors tongue. They are terrified of tongue. When they see the huge cow's tongue coiled in my huge cooking pot and they see strange foamy scum floating on top, they turn away in total disgust. "It's Ok," I say, "I'm throwing away that water. It's just to remove the outer skin."

I'll admit that when the children were young I used to tease them by holding the uncooked tongue in front of my mouth, so maybe that little joke has permanently damaged their relationship with beef tongue forever. I'd tried to convince them that it tastes just like beef, but just by looking at the slices of tongue, they could tell that the texture was different. I assured them it's tender, and tasty, and melts in their mouth. They were unconvinced. Once I cooked tongue along with some beef stewing meat; that is the two kinds of meat cooked in the same liquid/marinade - and they swore they could detect the taste of tongue on the beef and refused to eat the beef stew. So really, I stopped cooking beef tongue for the family. And there's no point going through all that work just so I can have my Lengua. But this weekend, I'll be seeing a couple of Maryknoll college classmates, Maria Ciocon and Med Villanueva, and like me, they were raised to appreciate such fine food as Lengua - so I'm cooking tongue for them - for us.

After I peel the rough outer skin, I will brown the tongue in my big enamel pot, then I will sautee onions and carrots, then I will pour in burgundy, soy sauce, beef stock, garlic, bay leaf, pepper (I have to check my recipe book - and then I improvise as I go along) - and stick all of that in the oven for a good 2 hours or longer. Then, I'll adjust the taste, and I will let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days to let the meat soak in all that wonderful juice. Then it will be ready for serving, with some full-bodied red wine, and rice, because we eat rice with most everything, and rice will sop up all that delicious sauce.

That's the plan.

Read also:
Cooking with Cecilia Brainard - Quiche
Cooking with Cecilia Brainard - Linguine with Clams
Cooking Lengua Estofada
Food Essay - Fried Chicken Caribbean-style
How I Learned to Make Leche Flan (or How I Met my Husband)
Cooking with Cecilia - Leche Flan (Vietnamese Style) 
Easy Filipino Recipes from Maryknollers
Cooking with Cecilia - Beef Bouruignon
Cooking with Cecilia - Chicken Soup for my Bad Cold

(Photo shows Cecilia with her famous Beef Bourguignon
Bottom Photo shows Cecilia, Med Villanueva, and Maria Ciocon)

tags: Food, wine, cooking

1 comment:

Natalie Renee said...

Mmmmmm... I'm craving lengua and my very American boyfriend isn't fond of lengua but I think I'm gonna cook it... just for me, haha.