*Please be warned that there are some graphic images in this post. However, the post itself is aimed to enlighten and educate.*
In an attempt to experience all the Namibian cuisine has to offer, I did it. I ate brain.
We shot an oryx yesterday. Not my favorite part about farm life but it has to be done. It’s either give the farm staff meat, or they take it. And in a poacher’s trap is a brutal way to die. So I remind myself as we load the carcass on the truck, it’s better this way.
Jay and I have tried other odd traditional foods. Testicles and intestines come to mind, also both from an oryx. But the fact is, they are only odd to some minds. Some folks see it as food and not to be wasted. I found this article about Indianans, that is citizens of the state of Indiana, who love their deep-fried cow brain sandwiches. (The article is in reference to the mad cow scare in the States. It is very rare for humans to get sick from eating sick cows. And mom, the oryx here are brain-disease free.) They say the practice dates back to European settlers who were “frugal with their slaughtered cattle”. It is meat, after all.
I, as a reform vegetarian, agree. If the animal has to die, it should at least not be wasted. So, let’s give the brain a try.
Traditionally, Namibians bake the head. A hole is dug in the ground with hot coals lining the bottom of the pit. The head is set in there and covered again for a few hours. An old man on our farm lives for oryx heads. Apparently, the cheeks are quite tasty as well.
We took a more modern route. We used a frying pan. But first, we had to get the brain out, and for that we used a saw. I have no idea how natives, without access to saws, get the skull open.
With a spoon we scooped out the organ. It was much smaller than I had expected, compared to the size of the head. It was certainly a very strange experience.
With onions, potatoes, garlic, and some spices we cooked it up. It smelled like any other meat in a frying pan.
And then it was time for the first bite. I was shocked. It was good. Actually, brain has little flavor on its own, it only tasted good because of the other stuff cooked with it. It is more of a texture food; it is very creamy. So I wondered then, is it loaded with fat? A little research shows beef brain (there is little info even on beef brain, much less oryx brain) is loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals without much fat or carbohydrates. However, deep-fried sandwiches are probably a little higher in calories.
It just goes to show you, fear keeps us from many things we may very well enjoy. I urge you to try something new, food or otherwise, and keep your mind open.