Sunday, 20 January 2019

Eating Cows’ Trotters — كوارع

Eating Cows’ Trotters — كوارع
My first memory of “kawareaa”, or cows’ trotters, as a young boy in Egypt was that it was aphrodisiac food. I learned that from Arabic movies, not from home, as we never made it, hence I had never tasted or even seen it. I can say the same about brains and testicles, both are consumed in Egypt among other areas. Also the fact that for 20 long years “home” was a five-star hotel — since my father was a General Manager — had certainly limited our exposure to such kind of food. “It’s good for your knees”, they would repeat about kawareaa in the movies. Considered of lower quality cut, cattle’s feet are usually consumed by the less fortunate. Ironically, my own experience only took place after dropping the meats almost five years ago.

In Western cuisine the trotters are not included in the common cut of beef, which only recognises shanks, and are not consumed as much. The cut, though, is often included as part of the beef shank. 

But in many other regions and cultures around the world, like Egypt, it’s a different story. They are actually part of various traditional dishes in Asian, African, French, Caribbean, and South American cuisines — even considered a delicacy. Whether from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey or Egypt, Googling “Cow’s Trotters/Cows Trotters/Cows’ Trotters/Cow’s Trotter/Cow Trotter/Cow Trotters” will lead you to many different international recipes, showing how widespread the phenomenon is.

Other than cattle, the trotters of goat, sheep, and pigs are cooked in similar ways and are equally consumed.

On a similar note, chickens’ feet, too, are edible. In Jamaica, for instance, they constitute the main ingredient of a traditional soup. On the other side of the world in China, chickens’ feet are everywhere: Deep fried, in soups, dim sum and stews, and are even sold seasoned and packaged as snacks. So it seems humans are not that selective when it comes to eating animals’ feet. 

Health wise, bone marrow is known to be packed with protein, calcium, phosphate and magnesium; along a quite a high percentage of fat — about 96 percent. When cooked, the resulting broth is a nutrient-dense liquid full of vitamins, proline, gelatin, and minerals. Some of the health benefits of bone marrow include helping build the overall immunity, a reason why it’s a common old-fashioned remedy against the flu. 

Due to the gelatin it contains, bone marrow alleviates joints pain while promoting healthy bones. For the same reason, it is said, it keeps the skin healthy and hair shiny as well as reduces wrinkles.

Bless the Internet, as I was writing this piece, an article titled A Bone a Day Keeps the Doctor Away? posted by the Neuroscience News and Research page I follow on Facebook appeared in my feeds. I have taught myself how to get used to these synchronicities, so I stopped registering and labelling such occurrences as “random”, resulting in much less head-scratching. What I do is thank the creative writing gods for their constant support and get on it.

As for the science article, it reviews a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (ACS), which suggests that the use of ham bones to make broths and stews could have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. It also explains why simmering animal bones is regarded healthy in slightly technical terms. 

Historically, bone marrow is considered one of humanity’s earliest super foods. Apart from the widespread notoriety of being an aphrodisiac, cow foot stew is also recommended as a hangover cure. So there was some truth to the old Arabic movies after all — it was always seen served to newlyweds on their first day together or even on their wedding night. You know, because the hanky panky requires energy and calories.  

Again in Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae music, cow foot stew is a signature dish, usually served with broad beans. Remarkably, the consumption of feet in the Caribbean goes back all the way to the 1600s, when first created during the days of slavery. Because apparently plantation owners would take the best parts of the animals for themselves and leave the “fifth quarter” — head, feet, tail, internal organs and skin — for the slaves.

Eating Cow’s Trotters — كوارع
The last two bones after he devoured the first one in less than a minute. I couldn’t
help handling this stare and just gave them to him. Nommm

Back to my own experience with kawareaa, or lack of it more likely. I was in my early 30s when I moved to Canada and got into cooking. From how to properly marinate Sirloin steaks to preparing oxtail soup, which took me about four hours to make, it was a blast. This time of Renaissance was also when I began eating many of the vegetables I had one day as a child rebelliously decided I did not like and stopped eating.

Check my earlier article Arugula: The Healthy Ancient Aphrodisiac for more. Yes, I’m seemingly fixated on learning and writing about natural aphrodisiacs. Because why not.

Fast-forward to three years when I moved to the U.S and dropped the meats. ... I came to Cairo once and told Bassima, our long-time cook and former nanny, that I wanted to eat kawareaa. 

Are you sure?” She asked. “I think it will be only for you and your dad” — excluding mother and sister [because kawareaa is too icky and yucky for them as it was for my late grandma among many other people].

What I came to learn from that first time we made kawareaa at home is that trotters contain no muscles or meat; instead, it consists of skin, tendons, and cartilage. When cooked — for a long time — the soft, chewy gelatinous tendons and skin become the tasty edible part, while broth is produced. But the real rich flavour comes from within the marrow. Similar to oxtail, it’s the reason why it requires hours to cook.

Also like oxtail, a dense, hearty soup often accompany kawareaa, which was how I had it the first time. I must say I did enjoy the experience, especially that, by that time, meat was something I ate on rare occasions. So apart from the richness, I equally enjoyed trying something new. It’s truly invigorating to be experimental. You see, if you like it, great; if not, then at least you know. Real win-win situations, which always remain educational. That’s a general life philosophy, not just about food.

A year later during another trip Bassima made kawareaa in fatta ( فتة كوارع ), which is a combination of rice, bread, garlic, vinegar, and yoghurt. This time as seen in the featured photo above, she kindly made both. And I devoured it all. Nom Nom Nom. One feels so energetic afterwards. 

As I experimented with arugula after consuming it to test the claim of the plant being an aphrodisiac, this time I also engaged in coitus after the meal. In fact, the young woman and I both had kawareaa, but then we totally passed out, for like an hour or so. Thing is, we had been drinking wine before, so the hearty meal came in and knocked us out. Upon revival, though, we went at it like beasts. So to report, the sex happened to be amazing, because you do feel the gained energy. Of course, the Placebo Effect could have very well affected our performance. Mayhap a certain degree of both were equal partners in the equation. Hm, I kind of miss that wild passion.

Eating Cow’s Trotters — كوارع
What Dahab the Lab left from the first two golf-sized bones

I have learned from my late Cocker Spaniel Caramella and others that dogs love marrow bone. In fact, it is one of the popular flavours for treats. So after finishing the whole kawarea meal I kept the bones for Dahab, but then forgot about them. At some point during the evening while at the kitchen he casually stood up on his hind legs against the counter, trying to reach the plastic container with the bones. He never gets up like that; the scent of the marrow bones must had been tickling his nose. Before I reached the counter he had already managed to grab the biggest two in his mouth and back down to devour them on the kitchen floor. I just let him enjoy and went to get the camera, as I kept the other three for the following day.

Then and there I was once again reminded by how Caramella wouldn’t leave the kitchen unless most of the bones have disappeared. Sometimes while cleaning the house, say a couple of weeks later, I would find a piece of leftover dried-out bone under the bed or carpet. So when Dahab tried to exit the kitchen with them in his mouth, probably to go enjoy them somewhere more comfortable like the living room, I refused and forced him to get back in. A couple of minutes later and they were totally annihilated. Ploof! 

After all that was recounted, my sister thinks I’m weird. “So you don’t usually eat normal meat or chicken and then you eat kawarea and liver,” she exclaimed more than once. 

I tell her that I’m doing it for the sake of experience, like a cultural experience gained through my travels. To also mess around with my taste buds and entire nervous system every once in a while. I’m also sharing a meal with the doggo as our ancestors did in the wild. Fine, I am weird. 

Eating Cow’s Trotters — كوارع
Slurp Slurp, no mo bony for doggo?!


Arugula: The Healthy Ancient Aphrodisiac

The Intertwining of Music and Sexuality ― A Djembefola’s Tale

The Difference Between Mandarin, Tangerine, and Clementine

What’s the Story with Blue Balls (and Blue Vulva)?

How I Dropped Two Waist Sizes in a Few Months

Kicking That Sweet Habit

New Kreation: Onion-n-Garlic Pasta with Mussels and Other Yummy Stuff

New Kreation: Veggie Pasta

Cooking My Catch, Finally ― Pasta with Calamari [With Video and Recipe]

New Kreation: Sliced Baked Potatoes with Herbs
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1 comment:

  1. Sometimes the "not so pretty" parts are the best ones! And I definitely think it's the case here!