Darlene Ramos

Darlene Ramos

At risk of creating another divisive issue, let’s talk liver.

Yes, THAT liver —the organ meat you either hate or love, defend or denigra te, shun loudly and profusely, or enjoy quietly and to one’s self.

Liver is the kind of food that could fit the category of pure “comfort”. But if you love the one you’re with and s/he is revolted by it, you, too, may enter the stratosphere of inciting revulsion by the mere consumption of it.

I was raised by a mother who prepared liver and onions to perfection, so for me, liver was always welcome. My husband’s mother never served it once, speaking of it only rarely and with pure disgust.

Like a political persona one hesitates to openly support, I soon realized I would either need to become a closet liver-eater, or give it up entirely. It was as if what I accepted into this temple called my body changed everything. If the one I’m with can’t stand liver, he very naturally won’t be able to stand me, either.

Bullying and peer pressure — that is the story of liver. You either eat it boldly and without consumer’s remorse, or you cave and join the spurning masses.

Funny that I joined the spurning masses for decades, only to hear my man finally (in a restaurant) utter these words: “Why don’t you order the liver? I thought I’ve heard you say you like it. I bet they do it well here.”

The warmth in his tone was so genuine, I scanned past the years of going without and leapt at the opportunity. The preparation was indeed fine, wrapped in crisp bacon and smothered with onions, soft and tender, able to be cut with a fork.

I enjoyed it enough that I accepted it the next time we ordered a beef quarter, wrapped in the white butcher paper of my youth. Alas, my intent to cook it through quickly presented a tough, charred result, literally a not-pale imitation of my restaurant experience.

As a dear friend puts it, there is a fine line you cross with liver. It is either tender and fraught with the animalistic qualities you expect and embrace, or it is such that you consider it the waste the can was named for.

She related the tale of her father’s finest hour, as a young girl in her family’s household: “My dad never complained about Mom’s cooking. In all the years I witnessed, he ate every meal she ever made with an attitude of appreciation. He clearly imparted to all us children that we were to hold this attitude, too — and eat every bite of what we were ever served.”

And then came liver.

“One night Mom decided to try making it — and there we all were, all her family members, chewing and gagging, close to retching up the dry, tough result. It was horrible, and despite his best efforts, Dad seemed to feel no differently.

“Instead, he cast his eyes about the table, watching the vivid efforts we were bravely making as we kids pushed at the meat, periodically bringing a dreaded piece to our mouth.”

Quietly he set down his utensils and cleared his throat: “Dolores, in all the years you have cooked for me and this family, I have never not enjoyed a meal you prepared. I have appreciated every one. But this one, I am sorry to say, is not fit to eat. I would like to invite each one of us here to join me at McDonalds for supper.”

Before my friend and her siblings could see how this registered with their mother, they were out the door, waiting in the car. When push came to shove the man exemplified the kindest of suppertime compassion.

This story demonstrates what liver can do to people who love each other. It is so like politics, rife with the capacity to unite or divide. It offers both a palatability and compatibility test. We don’t have to love liver ourselves, but we can still love the ones who do. And we should!

My husband recently told me he likens the thought of liver to a transplant, not a meal. It makes him squeamish, as does the sight of an exposed internal organ, because, after all, that’s what it is. A cook like myself knows this well, because before the liver hits the pan, it is very apparently what it is.

And herein lies the crux of things, but let us limit it to liver. It is what it is —love it, leave it. Or as so many mothers used to say, “Chew good and swallow. You can hope for something better the next time around.”

Succinct words that apply to both liver and to politics.

Darlene Ramos is a frequent contributor to The Dunn County News and former owner/operator of a small-town café. She resides in rural Boyceville, with her husband, Ramon

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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