Miley Cyrus has a famous tongue. So do Mick Jagger and Albert Einstein.
Merriam-Webster defines a tongue as a tapering flame, long narrow strip of land projecting into a body of water, a moveable pin in a buckle. François Rabelais has Pantagruel cover an army with his tongue to protect them from a rain storm.
Then they lined up in good order and well closed up, and Pantagruel put his tongue out only a half way, and with it covered them as a hen does her chickens (239).
Seamus Heaney writes in The Government of the Tongue,
When I thought of ‘the government of the tongue’ as a general title for these lectures, what I had in mind was this aspect of poetry as its own vindicating force. In this dispensation, the tongue (representing both a poet’s personal gift of utterance and the common resources of language itself) has been granted the right to govern. The poetic art is credited with an authority of its own. (92)
Jean Brillat-Savarin writes about the tongue in The Physiology of Taste,
Clearly, the tongue plays an important part in the mechanism of degustation; for, endowed as it is with a certain amount of muscular energy, it serves to crush, revolve, compress, and swallow food (37).
The Larousse Gastronomique, under offal, lists a number of tongue recipes: Beef or ox tongue braised, poached, and salted; Beef or ox tongue à l’alsacienne, à la bourgeoise, à la diable (662).
Harold McGee tells us,
The non skeletal muscles–stomach, intestines, heart, tongue–generally contain much more connective tissue than ordinary meats–up to 3 times as much–and benefit from slow, moist cooking to dissolve the collagen. (167)
Which brings me to my tongue. My cow tongue. Almost four pounds of beef tongue from Kroger’s, costing about fifteen dollars. A distinguished example of offal, and by offal I mean what Robert Sietsema writes in The Offal-Eater’s Handbook–a must read for those of us work through the “nasty bits” with love and respect.
My plan is to turn to great chefs of the offal, Fergus Henderson of Nose to Tail Eating and April Bloomfield author of A Girl and her Pig.
Brine with Henderson, Sandwich with Bloomfield. Henderson’s brine recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 2 1/2 of sea salt, 12 juniper berries, 12 cloves, 12 black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and 1 gallon of water. I purchase juniper berries and peppercorns at Penzeys, then pour the bath.
My tongue sinks into the brine where it will remain submerged for five days.
How do I spend the time? A few hours each day perusing Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man and Georg Friedrich Hegel’s Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics as I try to figure out what having or not having taste means. Of course, all three magnificent Germans agree that judgment of the beautiful resides in an individual’s senses, and yet each of us has a sense our “beautiful” merits universal consideration, and all our brains sling chemical/electrical impulses focused on art, music and literature so what does all this mean? Here’s Kant from the chapter “On Methodology Concerning Taste,”
It seems that for all fine art, insofar as we aim at its highest degree of perfection, the propaedeutic does not consist in [following) precepts but in cultivating our mental powers by exposing ourselves beforehand to what we call humaniora; they are called that presumably because humanity [Humanitat] means both the universal feeling of sympathy, and the ability to engage universally in very intimate communication. When these two qualities are combined, they constitute the sociability that befits [our] humanity [Menschheit] and distinguishes it from the limitation [characteristic] of animals. (231)
I like that definition very much, who and what we are, our humanity, relies upon our ability to feel sympathy and to communicate directly with one another through our taste, our sense and reason of ourselves and the world. Here’s Schiller on our receptive and determining faculties,
Man will combine the greatest fullness of existence with the utmost self-dependence and freedom, and instead of abandoning himself to the world he will rather draw it into himself with the whole infinity of its phenomena, and subject it to the unity of his reason. (69)
We are transformed by our mind comprehending the world through sense and reason; even further, we make the world through our perceptions and give it shape and substance. Hegel takes this a step further,
The universal need for expression in art lies, therefore, in man’s rational impulse to exalt the inner and outer world into a spiritual consciousness for himself as an object in which he recognizes his own self. (36)
We stand before ourselves as an object of inquiry and as an “I” created in theory and practice. Back to my tongue.
Well, first let’s start a fire. Yes, after five days in brinish, brackish waters I’m going to use smoke to further “cure” my tongue.
There it is, rising out of the deeps. Like the kraken.
Maybe only the tongue of the kraken, or simply my cow tongue–now ready for the smoking.
I smoke my tongue for three hours, keeping the temperature between 230 and 250 degrees.
Lifting the cover, I find dark, glistening colors. Next, I carry my tongue back into the house and place it in a pan for roasting.
I roast my brined, smoked tongue for two hours at 300 degrees. To quote Prospero, this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.
Next step? Time to peel my tongue.
I peel off the elastic skin, a rather easy task considering my tongue has been loosened a bit with brining, smoking and roasting; now, I turn to my stainless feel Kim Lih cleaver and begin to chop, I mean flinging the cleaver up in air and bringing it back down on my tongue over and over, tongue juice squirting everywhere–O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
Now, time to make the dragoncello: tarragon,
Maldon salt flakes,
hard boiled egg chopped and mixed
with capers and anchovies.
Combine all in a wood bowl.
Almost ready to make my sandwich, but first let’s open a bottle of Albert Bichot 2012 Bourgogne Viele Vignes de Pino Noir.
Yes to intense red, yes to black currant and plum on the nose, yes to limestone, raspberries and smoke on the tongue; which means, time to return to my sandwich.
I’ve placed my chopped tongue on a toasted slice of fresh-baked Boule from Whole Foods.
Top with dragoncello.
Then cut in half. Such a wondrous crunching sound as the blade slips through.
I lift to my mouth . . . delicious. The beefiness of my tongue merges with the tarragon sauce and the crispness of toasted bread creating an intimate, abandoning, spiritual revelation in my mouth. I swirl burgundy, drink, take another bite of my tongue sandwich and as all mixes I take a look around the little cafe I’ve imagined for myself, where within the midst of everything stands A Hawk and A Handsaw . . . and I am transported. Bon Appétit!
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