Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Brains on Toast

Something extremely quirky for today from "Cookery and Household Management" by Elizabeth Craig (1936). It is a recipe for "brains on toast", which sounds as if it was a dish for cannibals!

The danger of eating human brains first surfaced with the disease called "Kuru". This appeared in Papua New Guinea in the early 1900s. By the 1950s anthropologists and government officials reported that this disease - called termed "kuru" was rampant among the South Fore tribe. "Kuru" was a Fore word meaning 'to shake', and the unfortunate sufferer developed a shaking, shambling gait before they died. The reason for this was that the tribes practiced a kind of ritual cannibalism - after a relative was dead, there would be a "mortuary feasts", and the dead relative was consumed, brains and all. The involvement of the brain as one of the organs eaten lead to one of the first known prion diseases. The word "prion" was conflation of words for an infectious agent composed of protein, and the route of transmission was the brain. The Fore tribe were eating themselves to death.

But prions also surfaced in "Mad Cow Disease", when cows were fed protein products involving parts of the brains of sheep. Scrapie - the prion disease in sheep - then resurfaced in cows, and from then was transmitted into the human food chain. One of the earliest examples of the human form - CJD - was in 1984, when after an illness of 3 months, the victim died.

Her first symptoms were that she became somewhat forgetful and then began to stumble and have trouble walking. Initially diagnosed by her GP as having had a nervous breakdown, she was later referred to hospital as her condition worsened. (1)

The lady in question had lived on a farm, where her favourite meal was calves brains on toast!!

I would not recommend eating brains of any animal; the risk of infection by prions is simply too great.

But despite this, there are online sites selling brains, and sometimes quite odd ones:

Available with us is a buffalo Brain, which is low in cholesterol and high in iron, protein and all the amino acids. Known for tenderness and taste, our frozen meat products are free from any kind of preservatives. Available at competitive price, buffalo Brain is nutritious and also helps in preventing heart diseases. These are stored in clean environment so that their freshness and taste can be maintained.(2)

Fried-brain Sandwiches from Missouri, US: This strange food comes from St. Louis of Missouri, US, where calves' brain is fried and served in thin slices with white bread. While the advent of the Mad-Cow disease has led to some decrease in the consumption of this gastronomic extravaganza, the sandwich is still sold in restaurants in the Ohio River Valley. (3)

For those who don't favour the taste of Potted Meat, there are other canned options. Pork Brains in Milk Gravy is irresistible just for its cholesterol content (1200% of the U.S. RDA!). (4)

And here is the recipe from 1936:

Brains on Toast
2 sets of Brains.
White Stock.
4 croutons of Fried Broad.
1 Egg.
8 rolled slices of Bacon.
Frying Fat.

UTENSILS-Basins, knife, saucepan, frying pan, skewers, grater, egg-beater, baking tin, fork. Enough for 4 persons.

Always be careful that the brains are quite fresh. Let them lie for an hour in a basin of cold water, to which a teaspoonful of vinegar has been added. Remove the skins, and put the brains into a saucepan, with sufficient well-flavoured cold white stock to cover. Bring to the boil, simmer gently for 10 minutes, then lift the brains out, and let them get cold.

Cut four croutons of bread, the same size round as the brains, and fry them a pale gold colour. When the brains are cold, dip them into whole beaten-up egg, and then into fine white breadcrumbs. Fry them a nice brown. Roll and thread the bacon on skewers, and while the brains are frying, put it in a tin, into a hot oven, and cook for two or three minutes. Drain the brains, and stand each one on a crouton of bread, on a dish. Put the rolled bacon in the centre, and garnish with a few sprigs of either fried or fresh parsley and slices of lemon.



Nick Palmer said...

Glad I'm a vegetarian so I don't have to try them some day!

Alane said...

Totally disgusting, especially after watching Dr. Hannibal Lector, monkeys and Ray Liotta.