My mother is in town, so I thought I would take the opportunity to try one of her favorite dishes that always repulsed me: liver & onions. And really, I thought it would be easy. My mother and I are alike in many ways. I thought I would have grown into a taste for beef liver. I was so, so wrong.
I started out brave. I rinsed the liver, patted it dry, coated and cooked it myself. Mom said she would do it, but I had to brave letting my fingers connect with the slimy, bloody, deep-red flesh of it. I had looked at several liver recipes, some involving breading, some plain. In general, it was advised to cook the liver lightly, so that it was still pink in the middle. I figured, since by coating the liver pieces in milk the milk turned pink, that wouldn't be too hard. I cooked the onions first, then coated the liver in milk and seasoned flour, and fried it in the same oil in which I fried the onions. I got every piece nice and brown on both sides, then returned the onions to the pan to reheat, then served it with a baked potato and salad. I was feeling good. It was just a little piece of meat.
A bite of liver & onions, according to Mom, has to have some liver, some onion, and some ketchup (the ketchup can't be cold--we let it come to room temperature). I followed these directions and popped it all into my mouth, chewed, savored. At first, I tasted the coating and the oil and the onion and the ketchup. It was vaguely meaty. It was fine. The liver was fairly juicy and tender, which I hadn't expected.
All of a sudden, the liver flavor hit me. And when I say it hit me, I mean it punched me in the face. I literally jumped out of my chair, as if by doing so I could escape it, and let out a wail that seemed to make Mom and Ian think I had burned my tongue. The best I can describe it, it tasted like coagulated blood, or what I would expect coagulated blood to taste like. It smelled like the butcher's shop, that off-putting aroma that makes me want to get out of there as quickly as I can. For the first time in this entire experiment, I spat my food out.
Ian then refused to taste it. My mother, the liver champion, went in for a bite. It wasn't long before her face also morphed into confusion and pain. She managed to swallow hers, but then promptly grabbed the pieces of liver and threw them back in the pan. Liver, she said, must require that you cook the crap out of it. Which makes sense, really. It's kind of a diner food, and I associate diners with rubbery pieces of meat and puddles of grease. Anyway, Mom recooked it, and she dished it up. Ian took some this time, and I waited for Mom to take the first bite.
It was fine, she said. Ian tried it, too. It tasted like liver, he said. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not, but he ate his small piece and then took a little more. So I took another bite: liver, onion, ketchup. Again, it was fine at first. Again, though to a lesser degree, that bloody taste bit me. I managed to swallow this time, but only with the aid of a mouthful of diet 7-Up.
Maybe I'm getting hard-headed, but this is one I do not want to defeat. It is the worst flavor I think I've ever had in my mouth. And I have back-up. When I bought the liver, I was informed by the clerk that she had never sold liver before today, and that the other woman who bought liver today was buying it for her cats. I fed my cat a bit of liver and she sniffed it, licked it, chewed a little, and left, shaking each of her paws as she walked away. So guess what. I don't have to like liver. It was hard enough for me to find in the first place. I doubt I will ever have to deal with it in real life. And if I do, I'll make sure I have a full glass of liquid to wash it all down.