Friday, December 18, 2015

Not Spaghetti and Meatballs!

Liver and Onions with Polenta
When I was a kid cowboy movies were big entertainment.  I couldn’t wait for every  Saturday morning when the theatres would program 3 westerns and 5 cartoons.  (This was in the 50’s before daytime television)   There were famous cowboys, Lash Larue with his whip, singing Gene Autry, toothless Gabby Hayes, and Hoot Gibson.  My hero was Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, while his wife Dale had ol’ Buttermilk. This was about as close as I ever got to a horse and I never thought that people in the world would eat horse meat.  It was a shock to me to find that here in north of Italy there are restaurants that specialize in horse meat.  You can also find meat dealers in every market that sell horse meat.  You can buy steaks of horse meat, or even tiny strings of “gourmet” horse meat.  Italians will tell you that horse meat has less fat than beef, that it is better for you.  I have also seen horsemeat shops in Slovenia and Croatia.    

There was a series of movies featuring Francis the talking mule.  Francis, speaking in a low pitched, scratchy Bill Clinton voice, shared his analytical knowledge to fix a perplexing dilemma.  He had all the answers and told the main character how to get himself out of bad predicaments.  I remember one where  Francis joined the army (they used mules back then) and another movie where he joined the WACS, the female branch of the army.   Take a gander at  these movies on Youtube.    

Those movies taught me, a kid in elementary school,  that mules were clever and a good friend—Francis always had good ideas.  He was a faithful friend.  He was strong and a fighter for justice. He was the Jesse Venture of Muledom.  Hollywood humanized a mule, the same as Disney humanized a mouse and a duck.  I was an impressionable and Hollywood had me hooked.

Later there was a television series featuring Mr. Ed, the talking horse.   Mr. Ed even managed to talk on the phone in one episode where his owner had a party line installed.  (We had those in the 50's, where you shared the line with other homes and knew the sound of your ring to answer.)  A Young Clint Eastwood starred in one of those shows.  He actually did a lot of speaking, different than the gun slinging cowboy in those spaghetti westerns.  YouTube has these, too.

Join me at my table, I have a surprise for you.  Donkey meat, will arrive and it is called musso, in Veneto, the dialect of the area surrounding Venice.  Musso is a specialty dish found in this region.  They cook it for hours, like a stew,  in a red sauce and then serve it on soft polenta.  When I have  guests stay at my home, I take them to a trattoria up in the hills so they have a chance to play Andrew Zimmern and choose Musso.  Most of them dive in with  great apprehension but come up smiling.  I have to admit that on a cold winter night it is a choice I would consider, but I try not to think of Francis and his descendants.

When tourists come to see Venice they usually stay for two days and then move on to Florence and Rome.  In this short time they want to know more about Venice and experience its beauty.  They want to experience the food of Venice.  They will see liver and onions on a menu , but I doubt they would choose that dish, nor cavallo, or musso,  all famous in Venice.   Maybe this post has helped you know a little more about the Veneto, and someday after your gondola ride you will brave the menu and try one of these specialties enjoyed by the people here.
Cute and Friendly

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