Author, Gourmet Chef, and Ping Pong Champ!

Blog 14: Sweetbreads Story

July 26th, 2013 Evelyn Cole

A Very short story to help you create a marvelous dish of sweetbreads.

Thy Grandam Loves Thee
She decides to cook the sweetbreads Italian style despite the local preference for barbecue. Her granddaughter lounges on the kitchen couch to watch.

She opens the package from the market and places the cluster of sweetbreads in a bowl of ice water with a quarter of a lemon. “You have to let them soak a while, Elizabeth, and refresh them with a piece of lemon. Lemons are one of the great spices in life, and you know life has to be spicy—not too, but just right. Too spicy leads to heartburn—or heartbreak. Now, fresh parsley is a light spice but somehow necessary, like most anything green. Our Mother Earth seems to prefer to grow things green. True, corn is yellow, as well as squash, but green is what you see most in fields.” She pauses. “Yes, I know dollars are green, too, but don’t wear them for they disintegrate quickly.”

She turns the large burner on to high, fills a pot with the well soaked sweetbreads, fresh water, a few pieces of Italian parsley from the herb garden, another quarter piece of a lemon and starts the pot boiling. “They call this parboiling,” she says, “but I simply boil them at mid to high heat for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, let’s soak the mushrooms in lemon water. Later we’ll sauté them. Yes, we need mushrooms. A visiting college student from France once offered to help me prepare dinner. He picked up a paring knife and began peeling the mushrooms ever so slowly. When I said he didn’t have to do that he said, ‘Of course you peel ze mushrooms.’ I replied that peeling them would take a long time and he said, ‘In France, time is not money.’ I hope you will remember that, Elizabeth, the next time you are in a frantic hurry. It’s quicker to barbecue sweetbreads, but you’ll soon see why I prepare them Italian style.”

She takes the pot off the stove, drains the sweetbreads, places them in a bowl, and then pours ice water over them. “You have to stop the cooking suddenly,” she says. “Someday you may have to use cold water to stop unwanted advances, to remind yourself that you have the right to say NO, realizing that likewise you have no control over anyone else. Each and every one of us sees the world from his own peculiar perspective. That’s why I stubbornly cook sweetbreads Italian style. But, I’m only an old lady hoping to instruct you on the art of living well, so let’s sit down to peel these delights.”

“First,” she says, “you take a sharp knife and cut the outer membrane and lift out the inner core of each one in the cluster. Feel these little round cells in your forefingers. I know you think this will take a long time, but once you begin, you start to feel like you are caressing a newborn baby, or at least some pretty basic cells. Can you recall how impatient you get at a malfunctioning website you’re perusing for research, and how patient you are holding the door open for a cat to make up its mind? You must be equally patient with yourself in order to be patient with others. Every time you get mad at someone else, you’re really just mad at yourself. Now, releasing these sweetbreads, you are gentle and loving. Enjoy the feeling and give that same feeling to the child within you. It took me years to learn how to really cook sweetbreads for the recipe did not include directions to be patient with the child in me and be kind to myself. I think every recipe should begin with that as Step One.”

She places the released sweetbreads in a pan of melted butter and sliced onion to sauté for five minutes. In a different fry pan she browns some crushed garlic in butter, removes the garlic with a slotted spoon, and then adds the drained mushrooms. “We let the mushrooms shrink,” she says, “while the sweetbreads simmer in a half cup of sherry wine. It doesn’t take as long as letting a cat out. And don’t expect everyone to like your Italian sweetbreads, especially in barbecue country, just as you must not expect someone to love you. When you give up that expectation love sneaks around the barbecue and sweeps you away. You must be ready for love, though, or it will pass you by. There’s only one way to get ready: Step One above.”

She adds more parsley leaves to the simmering meat. “I’m not asking you to deny your imagination. Dream on, young lady, and you will master all you survey, with or without sweetbreads.” She stirs the melted mushrooms into the pan of sweetbreads and lets that combination simmer for five more minutes.

“Eh, voila!” she says. “Let’s set the table for a feast with brown rice and fresh green beans. Remember, Elizabeth, the meal will be exquisite, but not perfect. Perfection has a downside. If you expect it you’re continually disappointed in yourself. It’s impossible to see the humor in anything when your accomplishments don’t match your expectations. How you perceive outcomes is specific to you and no one else. Just as you decide how to remove the membranes, you judge the end result. Hasty preparation of meals may be fine for your friends and sometimes fine for you, but for now, my dear granddaughter, cooking with love prepares you for love, laughter, and luxury all your life. Also, it lets you accept graciously all exquisite meals offered to you.”




Written by Evelyn Cole

Evelyn Cole

One Comment on “Blog 14: Sweetbreads Story”

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