The Real Thing

By FoodNerd May 20, 2009

This post was supposed to be about Maguyver and Annie’s brand boxed macaroni and cheese.  About the magic that happens when you realize the culinary potential of the stuff that sits in the pantry and the food that tempts fate in the fridge.  But it seems the stars conspired otherwise.  Now it’s about a sandwich.  A spleen sandwich no less.

This is the sandwich that "forced" to buy tickets to Palermo, Sicily.  And I’m struggling to make sense of it all.  I keep staring off into space.  I feel a bit woozy.  The full impact has yet to hit.  But it’s done--the email confirmations have already arrived;  the money’s left the account.

I know, I know.  Offal?  How awful.  But I can’t resist--obviously.  I’m willing to fly thousands of miles to be satisfied.

I could blame Anthony Bourdain.  The episode from Sicily opened with him eating said sandwich.  And from then on, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  The scene played over and over: Layers upon layers of sliced spleen frying en masse in a huge old iron skillet.  The sandwich greasy and messy, served in a hollowed out crusty roll, topped with strings of fresh mozzarella.

It was all so beautiful.

And I’m not a regular organ eater.

But the spleen’s folklore pulls at me too.  According to Bourdain, nineteenth century Sicilian men would eat cow spleen to fuel their passion.  And I remember from high school French class that the French once viewed the organ as the source of melancholy. Our friends at Wikipedia offer even more lore: The word itself actually derives from Greek and is loosely translated as “compassionate.”   The Talmud apparently associates the spleen with laughter.  The Germans attribute eccentric habits to this small organ, and the English once blamed the spleen for their ladyfolk’s foul moods.

One organ, so many emotions.  Eating is the only answer.  And as the standard advertising plug goes:  Why settle for imitations?

So I’m not.  On June twenty-fourth, I fly to a place where I know no one, where no one I know has gone, where I don’t speak the language to spend three weeks.  I took a similar leap last year when I went to India--and yet, this feels far more terrifying.  The only distinction I can make is that last year was about throwing myself into a situation where lists and plans have no effect.  But this endeavor?  This is only about pleasure.

I want to eat.  And not just spleen sandwiches.  Cannolis too, of course.  And all the fish dishes.  And the ones that show the Arab influence.  I want to wander through the markets and sample whatever the vendors are hawking.  And once I’m full or at least willing to pause, I want to lie in the sand and rinse off in the ocean.

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