Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Goat Offal is Awful - Mannish Water

The weather's been so suddenly hot lately, and all of us - people and animals - are struggling to acclimate.

Last week Ethan made a long-awaited traditional Jamaican dish called Mannish Water out of the odd bits of goat offal.  He had been looking forward to this ever since so many of the goat kids last year turned out to be boys.  It consists of the "fifth quarter" of the goat - head, feet, and liver all boiled up into a stew with a scotch bonnet pepper and spices, and some starchy vegetables added like yautia and plantain.  We even grew scotch bonnet peppers in the garden last summer for this.  It's fabled to have manly, life-giving properties, which held a sort of curious fascination for him.  All year he's been playing this song:

So after much anticipation, he finally made it for dinner.  It entailed a special trip to the Latin market around the corner to obtain most of the ingredients.  The meaty bits boiled while we were doing the chores.  It smelled - very strong - when we got back, but often meat stocks will be strong-flavored until other things are added.  He even pulled out the heads and feet and tried to pick bits of meat off of them.  I was out of the room while this was going on, so I can't say what happened until dinner was announced.  The result was a pile of rough-chopped starchy veggies floating in a thick, brown liquid.

The first bite was.....goaty.  Extremely goaty.  We found that the only way we could actually stomach it was by pouring intense amounts of hot pepper vinegar all over it.  Unfortunately I had had a really unpleasant experience while skinning these particular goats.  One of them (Huck Finn) had a grass-seed abscess on his cheek - caused by a grass seed working itself into his salivary gland.  While I was skinning, I was SO CAREFUL to avoid it, because it looked so gross, but I ended up nicking it.  The whole thing exploded and spewed thick, goaty-smelling ick into my face.  I screamed and ran to wash it off with lots of soap and vinegar.  It smelled just like the Mannish Water tasted.

"It's.....okay," I said finally, struggling to hold back my gag reflex, but not wanting to be too critical, because Ethan has a self-esteem problem when it comes to cooking.  He feels like I don't like his cooking.  (This isn't true - except when it comes to things like Mannish Water, or the infamous smoked ham cooked in beer that tasted like a rotten olive).

Somehow we managed to choke some of it down.  The kids were good sports about it.  They couldn't eat the hot pepper vinegar, but they fished out the plantains.

"I'll never make this again," he professed strongly after everyone had dishearteningly pushed their bowls away.

"Never?" I said.  "Maybe we could find a different recipe?"

"I'm still haunted by trying to pick the meat off the heads," he admitted.  The children later told me that it looked like something out of a horror movie in the kitchen while he was doing this.

It could have been worse, though.  It could have turned out to be his favorite
 thing ever, and then we would have been subjected to a big pot of Mannish Water occasionally.

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