February is heart month on so many levels, its impossible not to think about it, the heart that is, what with Valentines Day granting the only respite in an otherwise dull month, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation people riding the saints contemporized coat-tails, reminding us of heart health every chance they get.
But given the poor old heart is such a tired, overworked symbol, metaphorized and allegorized nearly to death, we seldom unlock it from its imprisonment in flat "heart-shaped" pieces of red or neon pink posterboard dangling in storefront displays next to naughty red-lace teddies, or in any of the other myriad incarnations of Valentines cinnamon or chocolate marshmallow "hearts" or paper ones bearing love profound and true for an eighth-grader two grades ahead of you and consider its formal grand and muscular self, especially as it might appear on our dinner plates.
Oh heart, how awful, thinks the average Canadian WASP, whom my Polish husband charges with having a genetically programmed aversion to eating "pumps and filters." At this point I will resist making an awful/offal pun, the latter which hearts, along with the other passé organs and bits of the carcass like livers, kidneys and tongues, comprise.
On the other hand, for centuries and beyond, Europeans, and even some of our own elders on North American soil, have treasured heart for its robust flavour and nutritional value. The sad irony is I have yet to find one HeartSmart recipe for heart, a shame since it is such a healthy and, say the heart eaters, delicious source of protein.
Part of this divergence on the heart issue arises from the "use every part" philosophy born of leaner, more agrarian times which were steeped in practicality. We, on the other hand, the fortunate, illusioned children of eternal wealth and endless choice, have chosen to scrunch up our collective noses to the euphemistically named "variety meats" and show them the kitchen door, chop-chop.
A quick survey of local butchers Johnny McAuley, at Whistler Marketplace IGA, James Thomas at Creekside Market, and Michael Warren and Eric Bamberry at Nesters Market reveals many explanations about why weve become so heartless.
"All the offals, you dont see them, especially in Whistler it seems people are above that," says James. The others echo his sentiments: Heart is cheap poor people eat it. Its an old world food; the younger generation doesnt know what to do with it. People dont like to eat stuff like that, just the thought of it...
Poor heart. Cheap. Unfashionable. Low-class.
Such deep-seated, latent rejection isnt new. The word "offal" even stems from a Dutch word meaning off-value or fallen value. So on the one hand, its been spurned throughout the ages; but on the other, it has its passionate followers.