Pierced by my cocktail fork, the chicken heart, dark and shiny, was larger than I expected. I studied it for a few moments; considered it. I wondered if I would know the difference between garden variety food poisoning and salmonella.
Still, it was larger than I expected. But make no mistake, it looked like a heart. It was bulbous and asymmetrical. It was replete with a large vein sticking out of it that looked like a stem that curled a little at the end. It was done “yakitori” style which is some sort of Asian technique that translated means “way to cook food that should kill you.” Surrounding the half dozen or so hearts were four pickled quail eggs, each topped with a bit of bacon.
Bonnie and I were celebrating our anniversary at one of Pittsburgh’s newest eateries in the East End, Salt of the Earth. Our restaurant preference is usually guided by these principles; if it is ethnic, cultural or otherwise quirky; we will take a table for two. Our last foray had us eating beef tartar and bone marrow.
I took one last sip of my mescal and told Bonnie, “Hang on a second, I gotta eat this thing and I need a moment of quiet.”
I’m usually a pretty adventurous eater. If I have never had it, or better, never heard of it, I tend to try it. But still, eating a chicken heart was giving me pause.
It just seemed like something I shouldn’t do. So I ate it. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. It was not nearly as funky as I had prepared myself for. Sure, it was rubbery, but I was expecting that. I mean, it was rubbery until it wasn’t. After a few chomps, it sort of turned mushy, like I released all the connective tissue and it melted. It had the typical iron and mineral flavor that a lot of organ meat does. If it had been anything but a chicken heart, I may have actually enjoyed it.
But it was a chicken heart, and chicken is one of those things that we have been told can kill you instantly if cooked to anything less than an internal temperature that exceeds that of downtown Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Of course it didn’t kill me or make me sick. Salt of the Earth was a great restaurant. (I highly recommend the cheese plate after dinner with fantastic, smelly blue cheese.) Nonetheless, I think I may have eaten my last chicken heart. Try as I might, texture and taste aside, the little voice in my head that said, “you are about to eat a fucking chicken heart,” has proven to be too difficult to overcome. The pickled quail eggs, however, rocked.