We Need to Talk about Lamb Testicles

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We Need to Talk about Lamb Testicles

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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ne day, we will all be chowing down on bugs as a source of protein, thanks to a global food crisis brought on by our overdependence on meat and animal protein. Tons has been written about the fact that we’re using more cultivable land for livestock fodder, but we don’t talk enough about how we’re compounding the problem by picking only the A-grade pristine cuts of meat and then not giving a fuck about where the rest of the animal is going to wind up. The answer is, in a ditch somewhere as fertiliser, or as pet food, because we’re too busy buying a pack of boneless chicken breasts from the swank supermarket.

Let’s think about pig brain or lamb testicles. Your friendly neighbourhood McDonald’s doesn’t have a McPigbrain Burger and if it sold a McTesticle Burger, you’d shut it down. Why? Because the idea of eating lamb testicles is enough to throw you into a moral and gastric conundrum when it’s as fundamental as ABC. Eating nose and tail is, in a nutshell, respecting the animal you have killed. Not eating upward of 67 per cent of it, is disrespectful to the life you have taken.

Let’s face it, eating a nose or tail will never be as cool as veganism, and ordering deep-fried chicken intestines doesn’t have the same ring to it as ordering an organic kale, butternut squash salad with chia seeds, and unicorn spunk. Plus your Instagram likes will definitely suffer because #Kale is more popular than #Chickeninnards. But it’s important that they do. Conservative estimates state offal waste from slaughterhouses at 56 per cent for cows, 87 per cent for calves, 20 per cent for pigs, and 14 per cent for poultry. This waste mostly consists of blood, GI tract, heads, and internal organs of animals. Perfectly edible food, if we choose to eat it. But, theres’s Instagram.

I’m a meat eater and I’m part of the animal protien-dependence issue, but in my defence, some of my favourite parts of an animal are the ones you rarely see – the goat windpipe, with its unique cartilaginous texture, which changes in taste depending on how it’s cooked, tendons, the wormlike stuff you see just above the hoof or foot of an animal. Also, there’s the heart, brain, lungs, pancreas, skin (of certain animals and fish), tongue, cheek, oesophagus, stomach, kidneys, liver, thymus, and last but not the least, the real nasty, albeit tasty bits, the reproductive organs.

In Meghalaya, blood sausages are devoured; Goa relishes cabidela made with pig blood. But in most cases, a ton of blood goes down the drain.

And make no mistake. They are tasty AF. Just ask your dad, grandad, or the wrinkly old aunt from some godforsaken town that you never want to visit. They’ve all grown up eating offal. We have a rich, diverse, and storied culinary tradition of cooking gurda, kaleji, kapoora (that’s what nuts are called), that we’re slowly ignoring in favour of boneless tikkas and chicken lollipops.

Like most great cuisine, offal cookery has a place in history. These little ugly nubbins and less than shapely pieces of meat were all but ignored by those who could afford “better” cuts of meat. While the khansamas and bawarchis conjured up luxurious food that would please the palates of maharajas, their armies and those not of royal blood needed sources of protein they could afford. Thus, offal cookery was born and these meats were wholeheartedly embraced as prized culinary gems by the commoners. But today everyone’s wearing different jewellery, so these meats have been relegated to the food of the poor.

This leads to wastage of food you can’t see, on a scale you can’t imagine. Take for example blood, the most plentiful of all offal found in every animal. In Meghalaya, blood sausages are devoured; Goa relishes cabidela made with pig blood. But in most cases, a ton of blood goes down the drain. There is a global sewer running red with the wasted blood of slaughtered animals.

I can almost hear you saying, “I don’t give a fuck. I’d rather die than eat that shit.” Well, I have news for you Mr Picky Eater. You’ve probably already eaten tons of it. Remember the mom featuring in ketchup ads, who deftly turns roti and sabzi into a veg roll by dousing the veggies with bright red, preservative-laden, no-onion, no-garlic ketchup? Yeah, those guys have mastered the art of turning “icky” food into finger lickin’ good food that makes you go, “I’m loving it.” Food corporations like Venky’s and Real Good have been turning “mystery meat” into cured meat like salami and sausage, which you really love, don’t you? Well that’s just second-rate offal and that’s the reason it’s so damn delicious.

The thing is, consuming offal by proxy, is akin to walking into a lingerie store to buy your mistress something lacy, but reassuring yourself it’s for your mom. The chances of it really being for your mom are slim to none, but the probability that you’re a lying scumbag is off the charts. The sooner we face the fact that we really need to start eating everything that can be eaten of an animal, the sooner this form of unseen food wastage gets kicked in the nuts.

Deep-fried lamb gonads, anyone?

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