The beauty of working on books is that you get paid to read some incredible works before the general public has the opportunity. And…you also have to take on books you never would have forced yourself to suffer through if you weren’t being paid. But even if the book is a complete and utter piece of garbage, you often learn some bit of information that makes the reading experience somewhat worth your while.
And occasionally a book manages to be both entertaining and informative. Case in point: Simon Doonan’s très witty and endearing memoir Nasty. Not only do we become acquainted with Doonan’s outré pals, mentally ill grandmother, lobotomized uncle, and blind aunt who gets a good laugh out of accidentally stumbling into an open grave, we are also introduced to “scrape.” In one of the most hysterically funny scenes I’ve ever come across in a book, Doonan and his friends go to a seaside town in Britain, where they eat in what we Yanks would call a “greasy spoon” and encounter this delicacy:
“Scrape” is the accumulated, lard-infused, crunchy material which coagulates in the frying pan during the course of cooking other items, such as bacon or sausages. Scrape is collected and then, somewhat brazenly and disgustingly, sold to delighted patrons as an artery-clogging side dish. Nobody could ever accuse the English of lacking an understanding of the finer things of life.
The English aren’t the only ones with a taste for la bonne vie. In The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, the heroine believes she is destined to marry a man who likes sa cordula, or lamb intestines. The Scots have haggis, and in the Southern US we have deep fried everything and the fryolaters to create them in. Not to mention Paula Dean’s beer in the rear chicken.
Jewish cuisine has its scrape equivalent in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and gribenes (fried skin). You can find out more about both of these dishes here, but blogger David Bogner sums it up by stating that “there are certain things that absolutely defy all efforts at gastronomic gentrification.”
Curiously enough, the word “schmaltz” found a second life for itself as well as a home in the English language by also becoming a term used to describe something overly sentimental. Not so gribenes.
Another European delicacy is head cheese, a mouthwatering concoction that consists of the edible head parts of a pig or calf and possibly also the feet, tongue and heart. Yum! A friend of mine noted that head cheese’s only useful attribute is its use as a reference to help people visualize the appearance of certain kitchen countertops (i.e. “Countertops that look like head cheese are very popular nowadays”).