Back in the mid-1970s, when I was a street social worker in Over the Rhine, my office was right around the corner from Findlay Market.
I frequented the Market and even got to know some of the vendors, but after leaving that position time and opportunity to visit the Market slipped away. At the invitation of friends Yvonne and I rediscovered Findlay Market a couple years ago and once again enjoy a periodic Saturday morning visit, especially during the summer.
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On a recent visit to Findlay Market I observed various hog, cow, chicken, and rabbit parts for sale that are not readily available in the meat department of most neighborhood supermarkets. When I picked up a jar of pickled pigs feet Yvonne rolled her eyes and gave me her “do you want to be exiled to the travel trailer” look, so I put the jar back and fell into a daydream of childhood memories as we meandered through the Market.
I suppose I was about five years old the first time I tasted pickled pigs feet. That was over 60 years ago, but just holding that jar in my hand brought to mind the sweet vinegary taste that made me pucker when I took that first bite. We didn’t have pickled pigs feet very often but when we did they sure were lip smacking good.
For the most part Mom cooked chicken in the usual old fashioned ways – fried with Crisco in an iron skillet and sometimes cut up in soup with homemade egg noodles – I sure loved those noodles. Mom also cooked chicken livers and onions, which I disliked about as much as I liked her egg noodles.
Ordinarily the dogs got the various scraps of slaughtered chickens, but the giblets (minus the livers) were always saved for gravy or to boil with the neck and back, and sometimes the feet, if they weren’t too tough, for chicken stock. I remember trying to suck on a boiled chicken foot one time after it had cooled but found no pleasure in it.
Now cow brains were a different story. I remember well Mom frying up some delicious cow brain burgers, and no one in the family batted an eye as we devoured every bite. This was before the fear of Mad Cow Disease emerged, although it occurs to me the consumption of cow brains as a boy may have something to do with what seems to be an ever increasing tendency to absent mindedness today.
Mom also knew how to cook up a good cow tongue. Admittedly, it was creepy looking when she took it out of the package, but after the tongue was skinned and cut in bite size pieces it made good stew meat, which is the way I remember Mom most often cooking cow tongue – just add potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, salt and pepper, and other seasonings to taste.
Other childhood delicacies included head cheese, souse meat, and ring liver pudding, all of which, as my dad and great-grandpa taught me, were delicious on crackers with a bit of Limburger cheese on the side (if you aren’t familiar with Limburger cheese, think smelly socks.)
We also ate our pets – rabbits, goats, and ducks, as I recall. Each time, I did so with a tear in my eye and a wee bit of shame that lasted until I had thoroughly chewed, savored, and swallowed the first bight.
Interestingly, except for an occasional opossum – like the one Dad shot off the hood of the car when he was teaching me to drive – we almost never had wild game. Dad owned several guns but they were used strictly for target practice, and the occasional shooting of an opossum, which I wouldn’t consider hunting.
As Yvonne and I passed through the local farmers market section at Findlay Market, she struck up a conversation with one of the vendors. Seeing my opportunity, I told her I was going back to pick up a loaf of bread at the Blue Oven booth – which just happened to be close by the vendor with the pickled pigs feet.
The jar is now conveniently stored in my little apartment size refrigerator in the garage, and I sure am enjoying those pig feet – washed down with a Sam Adams.
Please don’t tell Yvonne because I don’t want her to be watching my every move the next time we visit Findlay Market.
Mmmm, just writing this column has my mouth watering for some souse meat and Limburger cheese.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Yvonne, live in Jackson Township.