ECHO underway, posted Tuesday, November 23, 2010
It comes down to this, every year around this time: should the turkey giblets be in the gravy, in the stuffing, or banned entirely from the kitchen and the dinner table?
Your humble ECHO staff has no answer to this, the most imponderable question of culinary import. As a matter of record, staff members don’t agree with each other. You must look inward, and not only at your turkey’s inwards (as giblets were called in many nineteenth-century cookbooks), for the answer.
We will say this, however: giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) sound so much more appetizing when you borrow from the French and call them béatilles—tidbits, or dainty bits.
A tourte de béatilles is a pie most foul—er, fowl. (We do try to be neutral.) Giblet pie is to be found in many a cookbook in the nineteenth century. And no less a Connecticut Yankee than Henry Ward Beecher, ministering in Indiana and editing the Western Farmer and Gardener, approvingly published the following letter in the journal’s pages:
The giblet pie I have always considered a cheap and economical dish; and it so very rich that none but a gormand [sic] could eat to satiety.
Foodways may bind cultures together as they do families. (Except, perhaps, on the issue of giblets.) Yet foodways may also distinguish cultures, one from the other, as well as demarcate class, gender, ethnicity and race, and religious belief. The types of food we eat also tell us much about agricultural and technological change. The Encyclopedia of Connecticut History will include entries on Connecticut foodways, from apple cider to oysters, and from Pez to shad roe.