When I think of trying something new, I think of my mother. It was her brilliant culinary skills that got me to trying veal, squid and even camel, her determination that got me drinking bitter Kashaya (the juice of various medicinal herbs and spices) when I fell ill, and her sly methods (to my horrific discovery) that got me eating rabbit, emu, and prawns (she told me it was chicken) too!
Somehow, every time I’ve tried a new meat, y mother has been around. Be it frog, shark or octopus in Goa, or even monkey in Assam, my mother has always been nearby, if not at the very same table. When I think of food, I think of my mother. She was never used to eating and cooking these “exotic” meats, but when she married into a family where everyone ate anything that could be cooked, she had to learn. So naturally, when I was born, I was brought into a world where animals were food, as long as they could be cooked efficiently.
My first encounter with Ox tail was when the mother of an Anglo-Indian friend spoke about it. She made it seem so new, so different, something I had to try. “I make a delicious tail curry. You have to come home and try it” she said. I was fascinated. Having watched Masterchef, I knew all about the “funny” parts of animals that were used in “elite” culinary settings, from kangaroo meat, sea lettuce, wattle seeds and quandongs in Masterchef Australia, to cow cheek, pig tripe, pig tail, chicken feet and even bull testicles on Masterchef USA, I thought I’d seen it all. I’d always known that Anglos cooked differently, it was only how differently, and that was the question.
When I finally got around to asking my parents about the cooling of ox tail, I discovered that you could make soup out of it too.
My first bite into the slightly meaty, bony piece showed me exactly why a whip from an ox’s tails hurts so much. My tiny fingers pried apart the momo-looking covering that feels a lot like buffalo skin, and I slowly began nibbling on the scraps of meat I could find. The meat in it doesn’t feel like Grill House’s famed steak, but rather like something I would expect from one of the people Gordon Ramsay insults on Masterchef USA. The black of the pepper, the green of the mint leaves, the brown of the cloves and cinnamon made it the perfect concoction to the soup I regularly recommend to people with a cold.
I quickly drink my mother’s newest culinary achievement, and even with the stream rushing down my throat with everything else in the soup, I revel in the flavor it provides.