Blessings here and now
Sophia, in stories and pictures

Adventures in eating. Also? I'm sorry.

We get our beef from a local provider that raises grass-fed cows in a humane environment. The owners of these cows also happen to be nuns, so yeah. Basically if you think you eat any more smugly justified beef, you're kidding yourself, unless the cows that were killed to make YOUR burgers lived their lives being hand-fed by the angels themselves, in which case, can I come to your barbecue? Actually, I would love to come to your barbecue no matter where you get your meat from because yum. Barbecue. 

Anyhow, the last time we placed our order, I womaned up and asked for the "extras" - the organ meats. Without sounding too self-righteous about it, I feel like if I'm going to have this animal killed for my food, it's more respectful to use as much of it as I can. I've learned a lot about how to cook different cuts of meat, and so it was time to move onto organ meats.

In case you're wondering, heart is pretty good. It has a slightly firmer texture than, say, stew meat, but the flavor is pretty much the same. I'm not admitting here that I snuck some heart meat into a random beef stew, but if I HAD, I can tell you that my children wouldn't even have noticed. Liver is...well, liver is liver. I tried making pate' and liver. Not my favorite, and no one else will touch it. 

And that left the tongue. We're getting to the end of this batch of meat (new shipment coming at the end of March) and so I decided it was time to tackle the tongue, as it were. 

I went online, to troll the recipes and comments, just as Julia Childs did when faced with a new cut of meat. A thousand tongue recipes assured me it was DELICIOUS and EASY and just needed proper cooking. I can do this! I thought. I made my plan of attack. All the recipes recommended cooking it in simmering water for a good long time to tenderize it (except one rogue commenter who claimed to have slow-roasted it for hours, until it was meltingly tender, the madcap FOOL), so simmering it was. Here I hit my first decision. Half the recipes called for tossing all manner of aromatics in the water. Onions! Garlic! Peppercorns! Bay leaves! The other half of the recipes said meh, don't bother, it doesn't affect the flavor of the meat at all. Now, "don't bother" is directly in line with my desire to not be bothered, and so that's what I opted for. I did not bother.

So I thawed the tongue and unwrapped it, ready to lick this dish. As it were. And I met my first obstacle. Because the idea of eating tongue putting. But when you're looking at the tongue? It LOOKS LIKE A TONGUE. Like a great big black and white tongue, bobbing away in your pot. With taste buds. Urk. But okay. Pushing ahead. I scrubbed it, put it in the only pot I own that is large enough for a great big cow tongue, and set it to simmer.

And then I learned my first important tongue lesson. The aromatics? They are there, not for the benefit of the meat. They are for you. Because simmering tongue smells...funky. Quite funky. For the rest of the day I kept throwing fistfulls of stuff in the water every time I passed. Here, have some garlic! Have some bay leaves! Dear God in heaven, peppercorns?


After some five hours of simmering, it was time to move onto the next step, peeling it. Peeling buds. I pulled it out of the broth and ran cool water over it. Time to peel it. Yeah. This would be where the major misgivings hit. The taste buds, man. They were RIGHT THERE. 

But I am a STALWART and POWERFUL woman, because I pressed on (also, I had told everyone we were having tongue for dinner, and maybe mocked a few who looked unenthused at the prospect). And in the process, with my sleeves shoved up to my elbows, and the special funky scent of simmering tongue all around me, I gripped the slippery tongue skin and peeled. And realized that I did not, at all, in any way, want to eat this dang thing.

To make matters worse, it turned out that the tongue wasn't quite cooked. Dinner was nigh, and it was still too tough. I tossed it back in the pot to cook some more and scrambled to make something else. The kids have never been so happy to see tacos in their lives. 

But today was time to finally face the tongue. As it were. I heated it up, then shredded it. And I discovered that SOME tongue meat is just plain meat textured. However, SOME tongue meat is...not. It's sort of soft and spongy, although some of the blame for that could be my cooking "technique." I sauteed the meat with taco seasoning, and turned it into a topping for nachos. And I invited my parents for dinner, too.

Everyone was very gracious about the meal, but I did notice that I asked them three times what they thought about it, and have yet to get a single response. However, when most of it was eaten, the jokes began. Max took a shred of meat and walked around, "licking" his brothers with it.

"MAX," I said, "please hold your tongue."

"Mom," Tre said, "that was tasteless."

"I think you really licked this meal," my dad offered.

"Everyone's being so tongue in cheek, I don't know what to think," I said.

By this point Raphael was threatening to spend the evening in his room, just to avoid the puns.

And I am done with this particular cut of meat. We'll be getting another tongue with the next batch of beef, but I'm thinking I'll pass it along to a friend. Maybe she'll have better luck with it than I did. My only real problem now is this: can I resist asking her to meet up with me so I can slip her some tongue? Because that would really be tasteless.


Max Martin

I....I... Trusted you. I would call you heartless, but I had your stew. (actually the heart wasn't bad)


I had to read this to DH - he had to know what was so funny.

Also, tongue cooked properly (not by me, I've never tried) tastes fine, but it does have a texture issue, with the taste buds. DH served me heart once and I was not impressed - too much like liver. So if we ever have it again, I'll have to try stew. I can see it working better there.


Were you ever tempted to stick the tongue out from under the lid of the pot it was cooking in, just a little? Like the tongue was sticking itself out at anyone passing by?

It actually tasted like beef. But my mind just has a hard time accepting tongue. But I was impressed with how we all really faced it, ate it and distracted ourselves by talking about the holocaust. Thank you for the experience.


Best post I've read all week.

Also, GROSS. (Sorry.)


Vascillating between impressed and horrified. As you consider that whole passing the next one on to a friend thing, I should tell you I'm not home.


My grandmother used to cook tongue all the time. I was not a fan of it hot (I think because of the texture), but it makes fantastic cold sandwiches. I have not yet been brave enough to cook it myself, though.


I was excited to read this post because (a) it made me laugh and laugh and (b) I have a cow's tongue of my own in the freezer and I thought you were going to tell me what to do with it.

I guess you are telling me what to do with it.

Cindy Page

I got a queasy stomach reading this... but thanks for throwing in the jokes. It helped me forget I was about to throw up!


What's so funny is I JUST had a friend describe her adventures eating cow tongue as well. Her picture of the tongue, pre-taste bud removal was GROSS. They grilled it. I passed your adventures on to her.


Maybe next time you can make meatloaf out of it!?! I'll stick with oxtails.


I eat pork cheek. It;s the betsd I can do. Just READING this...hilarious Just no.

I wish we had nun-sanctioned free roaming smug beefs.


I really think you should give it another try; you seem to be a budding chef!


I am most impressed that your kids ate it! My boys are 16 and 12, and there is no way. Actually, I'm 45, and there's no way! Thanks for the laugh.


A GREAT story - those college writing/english class(s) of a year or so ago totally ... hmmm shine? lick? here!

And also? I love M / Amma , "But I was impressed with how we all really faced it, ate it and distracted ourselves by talking about the holocaust. Thank you for the experience."

I think we need to hear, "the rest of the story!". But can see how the holocaust is > than cow tongue. :)

Jan in Norman, OK

Nope,no,no way,never,not in this lifetime, not a chance, ain't gonna happen...


No. NO.


look up taco lingua. Seriously, they are pretty good. (I had a similar situation with our grass fed cow.) you wont' want them weekly (it's still TONGUE) but they're pretty good.

One difference - our cow was actually quite small (Shetland cow?) so the tongue was only the size of a chuck roast.


I can't even pretend I didn't gag the whole time I was reading this post. You're a braver woman than I, and I have processed chickens!

Jan in Norman, OK

Also, liver is liver is liver.


You lost me at taste buds. Ew.

Emily B

Tacos de lengua--excellent use of tongue. We made them awhile back after butchering our last cow, and they were good. We used a recipe similar to this:

Donna L.

I just think it's super funny that people won't even consider eating tongue, but want some rump roast! I mean, which is cleaner!?
Totally impressed that you cooked it....funky? I'd have fed it to our shepherd dog...sorry, I would tell our next cow, I just want the parts that would be in our store under plastic!


i'm here via conversion diary. :)

if you know a filipino, ask how to cook lengua estofado! it is soooo good.

basic instructions in case you want to try again:

cook tongue in water -- bring to boil then simmer until really really tender, and by that i mean the outer covering should peel right off really easily.

after peeling, let cool or chill in fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients:

minced garlic, sliced onions, chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, red wine (optional) your choice thickener like cornstarch in water or bread crumbs. sliced green and/or red peppers, green olives, plantain bananas (optional), salt and pepper to taste. slice the peeled tongue in half lengthwise, then on the diagonal into 1/3 inch slices.

sauté garlic (until golden), onion (until limp), tomatoes in olive oil. add tongue slices, tomato sauce and soy sauce. simmer gently about 10 minutes. increase heat, add red wine of using and cook 5 minutes, then add peppers and olives and cook 5 more over low heat. while that's cooking, fry sliced plantain bananas, if using, in a bit of oil until cooked through. thicken the stew with cornstarch dissolved in water, or bread crumbs. add in bananas and serve with rice, bread, or potatoes.

good luck! i hope you enjoy it better next time!

Ashley Marcus

Oh my gosh! You've killed it for me! I thought grass-fed beef was as good as it got, but grass-fed beef from NUNS?! I love it!

We ordered a whole cow last year and I still have most of the organs sitting in the freezer. I'm actually planning on making corned beef tongue for St. Patty's Day, but now I'm scared.

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