I love fried food.


I’ll admit it: this post was written last week and left to stew for a few days. I spent part of the weekend galavanting across the Canadian countryside with my friend Joe. You see, I had lovely friend Ashley in Michigan get married on Saturday. (It was amazing to get to be a part of Ashley’s big day, and I had a BLAST dancing at the reception.) Rather than pay for a hotel and go stag (or is it doe for women?) to a wedding where the only person I’d know was the bride, I asked my buddy Joe to be my +1. He lives in Canada. About two hours from where the wedding is. So, plans evolved and now I spent the weekend and having my first trip to “America’s hat.” (It’s a really big hat. I mean, have you seen the proportion of America and Canada? It’d be like me wearing a hat that has the same size as a grown man.)

That’s weird. Anyways, things are about to get a little weirder. More weird? We’ll go with weirder.

My last post was about this memorial service that I went to for an awe-inspiring cowboy who touched the lives of many. It was a pretty moving experience. It was also a cultural experience. We don’t tend to have cowboys and cowgirls in rural Illinois. Even when you live in the middle of nowhere (much like I have for most of my life), we generally don’t have ranches, rodeos are pretty few and far between, and cattle are raised on farms.

So, there are aspects of the regional culture that I’m taking great joy in learning.

Ernie’s celebration of life gave me a new culinary experience to add to the cultural one: mountain oysters. They’re also called calf fries. And to my city friends or friends from non-ranchy places…they all get called “calf nuts.” Because, that’s what they are. Calf nuts.

Castrating is a valuable part of responsible beef production. It helps control reproductive populations. No one wants an overpopulation of cattle, especially not farmers. Cattle are expensive to care for, for starters, and having too much beef available will impact the supply and demand system. There’s a fine line to walk. One of the biggest benefits of castrating is that it reduces the risk of unwanted in-breeding. I think we can all appreciate THAT.

Anyways. Bull calves are castrated, they become steers. And their family jewels sometimes turn into fried finger foods.

I had my doubts. I felt like this was something I HAD to do. Just to say I’d done it. Just for the novelty of doing it.

On the right we have Hattie. Hattie was my mountain oyster sensei. The calf nuts are frozen, then handled while mostly-thawed. Apparently that makes it easier to manage them. Unfortunately, I don’t have the name for Hattie’s knife-wielding accomplice. Note: Brandi Buzzard has informed me that the mysterious knife master is Courtney Cale!

Soak the oysters in buttermilk for a few minutes, then toss them in cornmeal. Then, into the fryer!

Hattie is very happy to be frying mountain oysters!

Mountain oysters, waiting to be gobbled up. Also, there’s some onion rings hiding in there.

So, the mountain oysters were fried. They were sitting in the tray, looking at me, waiting for me to eat them.

Hattie snapped the following pictures of me. You could almost make a flip-book. She did a fantastic job documenting this momentous occasion.

Nervous. Dubious. Mentally preparing myself.

Going for it!

Chewing. Look at Jodi in the background — isn’t her outfit adorable?

If only I could remember what was going through my head right at this moment.

“Hey, that’s not bad!”

And then I ate the rest of the mountain oyster. And several others thereafter.

One more thing to knock off my list of Firsts! Now it’s time to sit back and wait for my mom to email, call, or text saying, “You ate WHAT?!” Yes, Mama. Yes I did. No one can accuse me of being shy about trying new things.

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4 thoughts on “I love fried food.

  1. Rock on! My dad always told me to try everything once because you never know if you’re going to like it or not. So despite how gross and disgusting it may sound, I try it. Can’t say you didn’t try! :) Calf fries are apparently all the rage here in NoDak so I will imagine I’ll have to try them.

    • Haha, I agree. I used to be a super picky eater, and part of the reason was because I never bothered to TRY things. I either associated them with things I disliked or just assumed they were gross. Now, I like a ton of things I used to “hate” and a ton more things that I would have been terrified to try! We can partially thank California for my newfound food bravery!

      Let me know what you think of calf fries! We can compare notes on our first experiences.

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