Some days I think I could be a vegetarian.

But here’s the thing. I loves me a good burger. What makes it easy to eat meat is that it doesn’t still look like the body part it came from, unless I’m eating Thanksgiving turkey, and then I try to ignore that it’s missing its head.

The most disgusting thing I’ve eaten that still looked like where it came from was this:


Italian tripe

Beef tripe is usually made from the first three stomachs of a cow, the rumen (blanket/flat/smooth tripe), the reticulum (honeycomb and pocket tripe), and the omasum (book/bible/leaf tripe).

I ate the reticulum. Sounds kinda like “rectum,” doesn’t it? 

I found myself presented with a plate full of the above “I’ll be throwing this up later” delicacy once when my high school boyfriend took me to dinner at his grandmother’s.

His was an old world Italian family where dinners were hours-long events to be taken very seriously. If something was served to you, no matter how revolting it looked, you respectfully ate it, smiled, and asked for more.

If I recall correctly, the vomit-inducing tripe was served to me in a soup. When I took my first helping, I was appalled. Each honeycomb sheet looked like bubble wrap after the bubbles were popped. It was pale in color and resembled something you might peel of your shoes if you should happen to walk through a garbage dump.

I couldn’t imagine eating this mess, but I really had no choice. A lot of love went into making this meal and I’m not sure I would have been allowed to leave if I didn’t at least try it.

And so I did.

I don’t remember the swallowing part; I only remember the chewing. I could have saved myself a lot of time and trauma if I’d swallowed the pieces whole because it took ten minutes to chew through the stuff. Essentially, I ate a bowl of rubber bands.

One by one, the sheets went down. Imagining I was eating food instead of an office supply, I slowly worked my way to the bottom of the bowl. I was careful to pace myself so that I didn’t finish too quickly, as that would only invite the question “Kathy, would you like some more?” Oh, no. Please, God. No.

To this day, I can’t believe I ate what I ate and have only the occasional nightmare about it. Give me another part of the cow — any other part — and I’m fine. Impossible-to-chew, sheets of skin-like stomach matter? No, thanks. I think I’ll pass.

So, what’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten?


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