I grew up in a house divided. There were four of us, and two did and two didn't. What are we talking about here?
Liver, that's what we're talking about.
All these years later, here's what I think it comes down to. You either love it or you don't. You can't get enough of it or you pass out at a sheer brief glance of that dark, jiggly meat that can either put passion into your glands or send demons to your belly.
My mother and I loved it. My brother and sister politely (defiantly?) passed. For me, it works at breakfast, lunch or supper (yeah, I still say supper, not dinner). And the culinary event is enhanced by a three-part harmony that takes place when the main course is joined by its cousin Mr. Onions and distant cousin Mr. Pepper.
I understand the great divide. I've neither invited friends nor family over to the house and served liver. I doubt many of you have. And, whoa, it would be Armageddon if you ever tried serving it in the Taconic or Pittsfield High cafeterias. I even like the smell while it's cooking and I know some of you are gagging at that thought.
So, what's with the liver rant today?
Well, I just want to defend my turf. For two straight weeks while shopping at Price Chopper at Berkshire Crossing, I've been verbally taken to task by shoppers who noticed the liver package in my carriage. One was a friend, the other a stranger. With all due respect, folks, I don't make a habit of staring into your carriage full of groceries and certainly don't pass judgment on your
Hey, that extra-large box of Velveeta cheese? That's your business. Two pounds of the German potato salad that's on sale? Go for it, dude. I'm not really looking, but sometimes I do notice. You know, by accident. But I would never comment.
But golly, put some liver in your cart and it's like you instantly become a star in some kind of reality show. Like those guys that capture gators I see sometimes on Animal Planet. This week on the Food Channel: Sully heads out and buys liver. Don't miss it.
My friend said (I paraphrase): "I see you have some liver in there."
So I said yeah and that I couldn't wait to get home and cook it. "It looks like something the dog passed," he added.
"You're not doing much for my appetite," I said, adding, "I'll call you later and let you know how it was."
For the record, it was just fine. He joked some more and I played along. But I began to feel defensive. I felt like the Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis getting caught walking a French poodle. I realized that this love affair had advanced greatly. Little, if anything, I thought, can come between a man and his liver.
A week later, it happened again. The kid in front of me in the checkout line, a healthy looking lad in his early 20s, looked into my cart.
"Liver, huh?" he said.
I saw trouble coming. I went into my state of the liver speech. I told him it wasn't for everybody and that those who don't indulge are welcome to choose something else off the menu. The fellow's dad was on the opposite side of their cart and voiced his agreement with me. Finally, someone who understood.
We agreed that you have to be careful not to cook the onions with the liver because the onions need more time. The son cast a look of disdain at the meat. OK, I get it. The whole thing rattled me.
Years ago, I used to get a good liver dinner at the Olde Otis Inn on Route 8. The establishment isn't there now. Too bad. Zucco's, on Dalton Avenue, I think has liver and onions as a house special one night a week. Good for them.
The fight to keep liver viable, relevant and credible continues. And as long as there is a breath inside me, I will carry the flag of liver freedom into the battlegrounds that are grocery store aisles and defend my decision not to hide one of life's great pleasures under a box of Cheese Nips.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you might see him in your local grocery store shopping for liver. If you do, please don't comment.