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Thread: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

  1. #1
    Victor Sack Guest

    Default A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it
    By Patricia Leigh Brown
    Internatinal Herald Tribune

    VIRGINIA CITY, Nevada: The judges gathered around the pool table at the
    Union Brewery Saloon, their palates attuned despite thick nicotine haze.
    They were here to assess the taste, texture, appearance and creative
    flair of a not-for-the-faint-of-heart culinary tradition known as the
    mountain oyster the Wild West on a plate.

    Of all the country's gastronomic competitions, perhaps none compare to
    the challenge facing the harried chefs assembled here in a parking lot
    for the 18th annual International Comstock Mountain Oyster Fry.
    Classically dipped in cornmeal and then fried, or artfully concealed in
    scrambled eggs, bordelaise sauce or sushi, these oysters were not of the
    Chesapeake or bluepoint variety but, rather, a cornerstone of Western
    ranching culture involving testicles from gelded lambs and calves.

    "It takes a strong stomach," said Nicki Wilson, 33, an office manager
    for a towing company who has an oyster taco recipe laced with tequila,
    cumin and cayenne.

    The cooking of testicles also known as calf fries or lamb fries is a
    living tradition on ranches throughout rural Nevada and the
    Intermountain West down through Central Texas (the annual fry here is
    nicknamed the "testicle festival").

    This feat of derring-do harks back to the days when every part of an
    animal was used, and settlers by necessity "had a rather investigative
    spirit when it came to food," said Cathy Luchetti, the author of "Home
    on the Range: A Culinary History of the American West."

    Liz Chabot, 77, who grew up on a ranch near Paradise Valley, Nevada,
    described the delicacy as "a taste like none other," and recalled how
    the fries were thrown into the fire at branding time, pulled out with a
    stick and then peeled and eaten like a fresh fig.

    "They couldn't get them done fast enough," Ms. Chabot said by telephone.
    "Generally, after a mountain oyster feed, there were no leftovers. It
    was a celebration with family and friends. Of course, it wasn't a social
    event for the calves."

    Although animal rights groups decry the castrating of cattle, pigs and
    sheep as cruel, it is a common agricultural practice intended to make
    males more manageable and their meat tender.

    The oyster fry continues to be a communal ritual where physical distance
    is a fact of life an excuse for men who have spent the day wrestling,
    branding and vaccinating 400-pound, or 180-kilogram, calves "to sit
    under the trees, eat and tell stories," said Carolyn Dufurrena, a school
    principal who lives on a ranch outside Winnemucca, Nevada, and is the
    co-author of "Sharing Fencelines: Three Friends Write from Nevada's
    Sagebrush Corner."

    The oysters are sometimes saved and served as hor d'oeuvres at wedding
    receptions, Ms. Dufurrena said.

    The tradition in Nevada is strongly associated with the Basque
    sheepherders who came to Nevada in significant numbers in the late 19th
    century. The yellowed pages of many a family cookbook include recipes
    for "bildoch pesta," lamb fest or lamb party, with the ingredients
    much to the consternation of outsiders sometimes obtained with the
    teeth.

    "It's a Basque comfort food," said Lisa Aguirre, 54, a descendant from
    Reno who was waiting for the oyster tasting to begin.

    "Everybody is going to tell you they taste like chicken," Ms. Aguirre
    added. "That's a lie."

    Known as the freewheeling saloon town on the long-running television
    series "Bonanza," Virginia City sprang up from the silver riches of the
    nearby Comstock lode and has gone through booms and busts. Yet it
    remains remarkably intact, right down to the wooden sidewalks. But its
    historic link to mountain oyster ranching culture is tangential at best:
    rich miners imported the genuine item from San Francisco, iced and
    carried by rail over the Sierra, said Guy Rocha, the director emeritus
    of the Nevada state archives.

    He described Virginia City as a place that had attracted nonconformists
    who came to "live out their cowboy outlaw fantasies."

    Hundreds of local gourmands drive the steep, winding grade from nearby
    Reno and Carson City to do their own judging. Seven teams of up to four
    chefs each have two hours to prepare dishes using 20 pounds of the
    jiggling raw ingredient (flown in from Australia this year).

    Ms. Wilson's oyster taco emerged victorious in the "overall taste"
    category, winning a huge tiered trophy with angels and a golden sheep.

    Among the competition was a Virginia City version of "cowboy sushi" by a
    past champion, Brandi Lee, a graphic artist.

    Mountain oyster chefs face the peculiar challenge of getting the
    squeamish to try their dishes.

    Sometimes even the chefs themselves cannot work up the courage. "I don't
    eat them," Ms. Wilson, the award-winner, admitted. "It's very sad."

  2. #2
    George Shirley Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    Victor Sack wrote:
    > A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it
    > By Patricia Leigh Brown
    > Internatinal Herald Tribune
    >
    > VIRGINIA CITY, Nevada: The judges gathered around the pool table at the
    > Union Brewery Saloon, their palates attuned despite thick nicotine haze.
    > They were here to assess the taste, texture, appearance and creative
    > flair of a not-for-the-faint-of-heart culinary tradition known as the
    > mountain oyster the Wild West on a plate.
    >
    > Of all the country's gastronomic competitions, perhaps none compare to
    > the challenge facing the harried chefs assembled here in a parking lot
    > for the 18th annual International Comstock Mountain Oyster Fry.
    > Classically dipped in cornmeal and then fried, or artfully concealed in
    > scrambled eggs, bordelaise sauce or sushi, these oysters were not of the
    > Chesapeake or bluepoint variety but, rather, a cornerstone of Western
    > ranching culture involving testicles from gelded lambs and calves.
    >
    > "It takes a strong stomach," said Nicki Wilson, 33, an office manager
    > for a towing company who has an oyster taco recipe laced with tequila,
    > cumin and cayenne.
    >
    > The cooking of testicles also known as calf fries or lamb fries is a
    > living tradition on ranches throughout rural Nevada and the
    > Intermountain West down through Central Texas (the annual fry here is
    > nicknamed the "testicle festival").
    >
    > This feat of derring-do harks back to the days when every part of an
    > animal was used, and settlers by necessity "had a rather investigative
    > spirit when it came to food," said Cathy Luchetti, the author of "Home
    > on the Range: A Culinary History of the American West."
    >
    > Liz Chabot, 77, who grew up on a ranch near Paradise Valley, Nevada,
    > described the delicacy as "a taste like none other," and recalled how
    > the fries were thrown into the fire at branding time, pulled out with a
    > stick and then peeled and eaten like a fresh fig.
    >
    > "They couldn't get them done fast enough," Ms. Chabot said by telephone.
    > "Generally, after a mountain oyster feed, there were no leftovers. It
    > was a celebration with family and friends. Of course, it wasn't a social
    > event for the calves."
    >
    > Although animal rights groups decry the castrating of cattle, pigs and
    > sheep as cruel, it is a common agricultural practice intended to make
    > males more manageable and their meat tender.
    >
    > The oyster fry continues to be a communal ritual where physical distance
    > is a fact of life an excuse for men who have spent the day wrestling,
    > branding and vaccinating 400-pound, or 180-kilogram, calves "to sit
    > under the trees, eat and tell stories," said Carolyn Dufurrena, a school
    > principal who lives on a ranch outside Winnemucca, Nevada, and is the
    > co-author of "Sharing Fencelines: Three Friends Write from Nevada's
    > Sagebrush Corner."
    >
    > The oysters are sometimes saved and served as hor d'oeuvres at wedding
    > receptions, Ms. Dufurrena said.
    >
    > The tradition in Nevada is strongly associated with the Basque
    > sheepherders who came to Nevada in significant numbers in the late 19th
    > century. The yellowed pages of many a family cookbook include recipes
    > for "bildoch pesta," lamb fest or lamb party, with the ingredients
    > much to the consternation of outsiders sometimes obtained with the
    > teeth.
    >
    > "It's a Basque comfort food," said Lisa Aguirre, 54, a descendant from
    > Reno who was waiting for the oyster tasting to begin.
    >
    > "Everybody is going to tell you they taste like chicken," Ms. Aguirre
    > added. "That's a lie."
    >
    > Known as the freewheeling saloon town on the long-running television
    > series "Bonanza," Virginia City sprang up from the silver riches of the
    > nearby Comstock lode and has gone through booms and busts. Yet it
    > remains remarkably intact, right down to the wooden sidewalks. But its
    > historic link to mountain oyster ranching culture is tangential at best:
    > rich miners imported the genuine item from San Francisco, iced and
    > carried by rail over the Sierra, said Guy Rocha, the director emeritus
    > of the Nevada state archives.
    >
    > He described Virginia City as a place that had attracted nonconformists
    > who came to "live out their cowboy outlaw fantasies."
    >
    > Hundreds of local gourmands drive the steep, winding grade from nearby
    > Reno and Carson City to do their own judging. Seven teams of up to four
    > chefs each have two hours to prepare dishes using 20 pounds of the
    > jiggling raw ingredient (flown in from Australia this year).
    >
    > Ms. Wilson's oyster taco emerged victorious in the "overall taste"
    > category, winning a huge tiered trophy with angels and a golden sheep.
    >
    > Among the competition was a Virginia City version of "cowboy sushi" by a
    > past champion, Brandi Lee, a graphic artist.
    >
    > Mountain oyster chefs face the peculiar challenge of getting the
    > squeamish to try their dishes.
    >
    > Sometimes even the chefs themselves cannot work up the courage. "I don't
    > eat them," Ms. Wilson, the award-winner, admitted. "It's very sad."


    Way out west isn't the only place that cooks mountain oysters. I grew up
    in SE Texas and we did too, a delicacy at branding, dehorning, and
    castrating time. Cut them off, skin them, roast them on a green stick
    over the branding fire.

    Just helped a friend brand and castrate two weeks ago here in SW
    Louisiana. Forty lbs of mountain oysters were harvested and traded to
    another rancher for a small, roll around hydraulic crane. Someone had a
    big party that night.

    Horse, cattle, turkeys, sheep, goats, it doesn't matter to farm folk,
    oysters is oysters.

  3. #3
    Dale P Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    I grew up on a farm, a nut fry parties were a big event. My uncles had a
    large, heated barn that they used to have a huge party for nut fry. men
    only. Many had turkey fries.

    While we have several restaurants in the area that have Rocky Mountin
    Oysters on the menu, there was none like Bruce's Bar in Severance, Colorado.
    Severance was a crossroad, with a bar. Bruce's specialty was RMO's. People
    came from all around for beer, nuts, and dancin'!! My brother in law took
    some out of towners there for a treat. They did not know what a RMO was,
    but one guy commented that they had a "nutty" taste. The United Bank in
    Greeley used to have a charity run that ended at Bruce's for fries and beer.
    It was called the "Run for the nuts". Anyway, Bruce died, the bar closed
    and Severance is now a thriving town with people and everything.

    Aw, the good old days.

    Dale P


  4. #4
    Becca Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    Dale P wrote:
    > I grew up on a farm, a nut fry parties were a big event. My uncles
    > had a large, heated barn that they used to have a huge party for nut
    > fry. men only. Many had turkey fries.
    >
    > While we have several restaurants in the area that have Rocky Mountin
    > Oysters on the menu, there was none like Bruce's Bar in Severance,
    > Colorado. Severance was a crossroad, with a bar. Bruce's specialty
    > was RMO's. People came from all around for beer, nuts, and dancin'!!
    > My brother in law took some out of towners there for a treat. They
    > did not know what a RMO was, but one guy commented that they had a
    > "nutty" taste. The United Bank in Greeley used to have a charity run
    > that ended at Bruce's for fries and beer. It was called the "Run for
    > the nuts". Anyway, Bruce died, the bar closed and Severance is now a
    > thriving town with people and everything.
    >
    > Aw, the good old days.
    >
    > Dale P


    Interesting story, Dale, I enjoyed reading it. Reminds me of when I
    grew up.


    Becca

  5. #5
    Victor Sack Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    George Shirley <[email protected]> wrote:

    > Horse, cattle, turkeys, sheep, goats, it doesn't matter to farm folk,
    > oysters is oysters.


    I had lamb fries at Cattlemen's Steak House in Fort Worth. They tasted
    like more-than-usually-bland cotton wool... practically
    indistinguishable from their breading.

    Victor

  6. #6
    Gloria P Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    Victor Sack wrote:
    > A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it
    > By Patricia Leigh Brown
    > Internatinal Herald Tribune
    >
    > VIRGINIA CITY, Nevada:
    >
    > Of all the country's gastronomic competitions, perhaps none compare to
    > the challenge facing the harried chefs assembled here in a parking lot
    > for the 18th annual International Comstock Mountain Oyster Fry.
    > Classically dipped in cornmeal and then fried, or artfully concealed in
    > scrambled eggs, bordelaise sauce or sushi, these oysters were not of the
    > Chesapeake or bluepoint variety but, rather, a cornerstone of Western
    > ranching culture involving testicles from gelded lambs and calves.
    >



    They are very common appetizers in expensive game/bison restaurants,
    breaded and deep fried. They don't have much flavor other than the
    salsa or other sauce they are served with.

    One local restaurant called The Fort serves them on a sampler platter
    including peanut butter stuffed jalapenos (quite good), alligator,
    boudin sausage, and rattlesnake. Their bison is wonderful but the
    appetizer sampler is always ordered when hosting out-of-towners,
    especially queasy ones.

    gloria p

  7. #7
    Dale P Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    "> One local restaurant called The Fort serves them on a sampler platter
    > including peanut butter stuffed jalapenos (quite good), alligator,
    > boudin sausage, and rattlesnake. Their bison is wonderful but the
    > appetizer sampler is always ordered when hosting out-of-towners,
    > especially queasy ones.
    >
    > gloria p


    We went to The Fort once and I did not like it. It was small portions, hard
    seats, rushed service, and over priced. The worst thing was the hard
    chairs. I had a back ache when we left. The Buckhorn Exchange has RMO on
    the menu at all times. Did you ever go up north to Bruce's Bar in
    Severance? It was quite the place. Nothing fancy (the opposite), but good
    fun. Only closed up a few years ago.

    Later,

    DaleP


  8. #8
    Don Martinich Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    If you're in Oakdale, CA on March 30 you can catch the Testicle Festival-
    http://www.oakdalecowboymuseum.org/festival.htm

    D.M.

  9. #9
    Omelet Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    In article <77n2tmfubb5c$.[email protected]>,
    Victor Sack <[email protected]> wrote:

    > A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it
    > By Patricia Leigh Brown
    > Internatinal Herald Tribune
    >
    > VIRGINIA CITY, Nevada: The judges gathered around the pool table at the
    > Union Brewery Saloon, their palates attuned despite thick nicotine haze.
    > They were here to assess the taste, texture, appearance and creative
    > flair of a not-for-the-faint-of-heart culinary tradition known as the
    > mountain oyster the Wild West on a plate.


    <snipped>

    I went to an "end of semester" party once at our Animal Husbandry
    professor's house. He served some plates of "calf fries". Bits of
    yummy meat battered and deep fried.

    All the party goers dived into them with relish...

    until the information about what they actually were went around to the
    party goers. <g>

    Even I did not know what they were when I first started eating them...
    They were very good so I just shrugged and continued to enjoy them!

    Our professor was a veterinarian and did all the castrating for the
    local feeder calf lots. He just took an ice chest around with him when
    he did it.

    :-)
    --
    Peace! Om

    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
    It's about learning to dance in the rain.
    -- Anon.

  10. #10
    Leonard Blaisdell Guest

    Default Re: A taste of the Wild West, for those who can stomach it

    In article <1iwueag.158fczf1tizttsN%[email protected]>,
    [email protected] (Victor Sack) wrote:

    > I had lamb fries at Cattlemen's Steak House in Fort Worth. They tasted
    > like more-than-usually-bland cotton wool... practically
    > indistinguishable from their breading.


    I had them in Washoe Valley, five miles distant as the crow flies, from
    Virginia City during a Ducks Unlimited lamb feed. As a part of the
    cooking team, we got stuff for breakfast that the paying rabble didn't
    get when they showed up several hours later.
    After an hour or so of early morning prep, a guy came over and said
    breakfast was ready. I went to a cauldron with lots of spicy stuff in it
    and curious short sausages. I marveled at the veiny patterns in the
    sausage. I remember them as practically bobbing in olive oil on the
    surface.
    I ate probably six of those sausages in the spicy sauce and got back to
    work. Within an hour or two, I was led to understand what I'd eaten by
    others bragging about it.
    I wouldn't have eaten them had I known. The spicy sauce and other stuff
    with them was excellent. I wouldn't buy any or order them at a
    restaurant, but I'd sure eat them on a bet.
    I thought they were ground veal with no flavorings in a veiny case.

    leo

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