“The cabbage soup is very good today, my sweet!” said Sobakevich, having slurped up some soup and heaped on his plate an enormous piece of nyanya, a well-known dish served with cabbage soup, consisting of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with buckwheat groats, brains, and trotters. “Such nyanya you’ll never get in town,” he went on, addressing Chichikov, “they’ll serve you the devil knows what there!”
“The governor, however, keeps a rather good table,” said Chichikov.
“But do you know what it’s all made from? You wouldn’t eat it if you found out.”
“I don’t know how it’s prepared, I can’t judge about that, but the pork cutlets and poached fish were excellent.”
“It seemed so to you. I know what they buy at the market. That rascal of a cook, who learned from a Frenchman, buys a cat, skins it, and serves it instead of hare.”
“Pah! what an unpleasant thing to say,” said Sobakevich’s spouse.
“But, sweetie, that’s what they do, it’s not my fault, that’s what they all do. Whatever they’ve got that’s unusable, that our Akulka throws, if I may say so, into the pig bucket, they put into the soup! into the soup! right plop into it!”
“What things you’re always telling about at the table!” Sobakevich’s spouse objected again.
“But, my sweet,” said Sobakevich, “it’s not as if I were doing it myself, but I’ll tell you right to your face, I will not eat any vile-ness. No frog, even if it’s pasted all over with sugar, will ever go near my mouth, and no oyster either: I know what oysters are like. Take this lamb,” he went on, addressing Chichikov, “this is a rack of lamb with buckwheat groats! It’s not that fricassee they make in squires’ kitchens out of lamb that’s been lying around the marketplace for four days! It was German and French doctors who invented it all, I’d have the whole lot of them hung for it! They invented the diet, the hunger treatment! With their thin-boned German nature, they fancy they can take on the Russian stomach, too! No, it’s all wrong, all these inventions, it’s all…” Here Sobakevich even shook his head angrily. “They say: enlightenment, enlightenment, and this enlightenment—poof! I’d use another word, only it wouldn’t be proper at the table. With me it’s not like that. With me, if it’s pork—let’s have the whole pig on the table, if it’s lamb—drag in the whole sheep, if goose—the whole goose! Better that I eat just two courses, but eat my fill, as my soul demands.” Sobakevich confirmed this in action: he dumped half of the rack of lamb onto his own plate, ate it all up, gnawed it, and sucked it out to the last little bone.
—Gogol, Dead Souls
But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is; like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a cocoanut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into some other substance, and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.
In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish. The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump, whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings), they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in flavor somewhat resembling calves’ head, which is quite a dish among some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the epicures, by continually dining upon calves’ brains, by and by get to have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a calf’s head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon discrimination. And that is the reason why a young buck with an intelligent looking calf’s head before him, is somehow one of the saddest sights you can see. The head looks a sort of reproachfully at him, with an “Et tu Brute!” expression.
Lovely! all the essential parts,
like an oyster without a shell
fresh and sweet tasting, to be
swallowed, chewed and swallowed.
Or better, a brain without a
skull. I remember once a guy in
our anatomy class dropped one
from the third floor window on
an organ grinder in Pine Street.
[also: “a pathetic scene laid // upon thin slices / of sympathy” and “between // the thighs a delicious / lung with entrails / and a tongue or gorget”]
— Thomas Moore