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.
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.
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.