Offal’s descent into ignominy is a mainly Western, modern phenomenon that is tightly bound up with issues of class. But there are pockets of our food culture that have either never stopped eating the “humble” parts or who have returned to it, finding something wholesome, exotic, or even erotic about it.
Offal occupies a central place in my kitchen–but many Americans would never even try it, let alone attempt to cook with it themselves. In this article, I explore how offal used to be an integral part of the Western diet, and why it has suffered a fall from grace in modern times.
When archaeologists excavated Sardis, the ancient capital of Lydia, in the 1950s, they unearthed some disturbing evidence: “table settings” from ritual meals, including plates, cups, pitchers, stew pots, iron knives…and the bones of puppies. The remains forced them to consider an uncomfortable question: Might the meat originally used in the dish have been that of puppies, slaughtered for a ritual meal?
Souvlaki is a traditional dish that is almost synonymous with Greece itself, yet it may have emerged from a much older, Lydian delicacy. Read on to find out why your favorite skewered food’s predecessor carried cultural stakes that go beyond what you might have imagined–and how you can cook a version that recovers what it may have been like to dine on the original.