Thursday, February 25, 2010

(Kinda) Historic Recipe: Crisp Lemon Liver

Friends, it was liver night tonight at the Rational Living homestead.

Liver was a frequent wartime meal because liver and other "organ meats" could be purchased with fewer ration points as compared to other traditional cuts of meat.

I tried to prepare as best as I could for tonight. I searched (my favorite recipe site) for a highly-rated liver recipe. I found one that was ration-friendly and had numerous comments along the lines of "my kids never eat liver and they ate it right up!"

I went to the store, looking for nice, fresh calf liver, as described in the recipe. Apparently, however, in our town if you want fresh calf liver you have to go to the butcher's shop which would be about 11 miles round-trip. Ever sensitive to the mileage allotment (and being somewhat lazy) I settled for the generically labeled "beef liver" available in our local grocer's freezer section. In the back of my mind I thought it a bad sign that they didn't keep fresh liver on hand because, in my rationale, if liver is good enough that normal people eat it then the meat department at the local grocer should at least keep a tiny amount of fresh calf liver on hand to appease those loyal patrons.

But, no.

So I brought home a one pound package of frozen, sliced beef liver. And in it's sterile, firm packaging the staggered slices look quite benign.

TMOTH and I talked about the approaching liver night after the girls went to bed. I have no specific memory of eating liver as a kid and I know I've never eaten it past the age of, say, ten. TMOTH was raised with the occasional liver and onions dinner. Now, there are two things that, after nearly 16 years together, I know never to offer TMOTH: any form of olive and/or gratuitous amounts of onions. So, when TMOTH shared his memories of the horrible taste of liver and wrinkled his face in sincere grimaces of disgust I thought that maybe some of his disdain for liver had to do more with the onions rather than the meat itself. He assured me otherwise but promised to take one bite of the prepared liver since we have a one-bite policy in the house. And we both agreed to not tell the girls what the meat was until they, too, had had their one bite (so as to not prejudice their opinions).

When I arrived home tonight I grabbed the package of liver out of the refrigerator. No longer frozen, the package had turned into a bright red, bloody, squishy mass. Very squishy. I soon learned that thawed, sliced beef liver has the consistency of wet tissue paper and also attracts the family dog. I grimaced as I cut the liver in to slices for the recipe, but was optimistic since I couldn't detect any noticeable foul odor from the meat.

The recipe was quite simple and the liver cooked up in a flash. I was surprised that the odor wasn't too bad. I asked TMOTH (diplomatically making himself scarce) if the odor was bothering him in the adjacent room and he replied that it was pretty manageable. I started to get excited - could this be a victory meal?

After preparation, this is what the meal looked like:

I was hopeful; it had a sort of stir-fried, mini-chicken-fried-steak thing going and was drizzled with a lemony-bacon sauce. One the side? A generous pot of saffron rice and canned pears.

Sissy, ever the enthusiastic carnivore, took the first bite. She quickly spit it back out, saying it was too lemony and tasted a little strange. The piece of liver spent such a short time in her mouth I was doubtful if she really got the full flavor.

Eowyn, always a bit more reserved around meat, fondled a piece of liver in her mouth and then spit it out. Party pooper.

TMOTH was next. Like a champion he put an honest bite into his mouth and began to chew. After two chews his eyes became all squinty. After three chews his mouth was grimacing, apparently in a wrestling match with his mind. On the fourth chew the mind won and out came the (thoroughly chewed) liver.

Friends, I feel like I should tell you that chewed, cooked liver looks like cat-sick (as the author of On the Ration might say).

I was the only one left. Talk about peer pressure. I was ready to prove them all wrong. I put a good nickle-sized piece of liver in my mouth. I was pleasantly surprised by the texture; the wet tissue paper had been replaced by a tender meat, very similar to chicken fried steak. Another bite and I could taste the lemony-bacon sauce. Salty and tangy at the same time. Mmm... This wasn't bad at all. With the third bite I committed to the chewing - this piece was awesome and was going to make it all the way down unlike the other losers at the table. Four chews. Five chews. What a bunch of pansies, they couldn't keep the liver in their mouths for more than


Why does it taste like burning plastic in my mouth? Did a chewing-activated enzyme just turn my piece of food into motor oil? What the hell is going on?

Friends, my piece of liver became reacquainted with my plate.

And then we all looked at each other around the table.

I think the rest of the family was a little proud of me. I think they would have been worried if I actually liked the liver. TMOTH said for the first several of my chews he thought I was really going to make it and be able to swallow that piece of liver.

Sissy sympathized with me, saying "I understand. At one point I had this thought that if I swallowed it I would chuck it right back up."

Eowyn quietly kept to her rice and pears.

Friends, I'd like to tell you that this will be the one and only "organ meat" recipe attempted during rationing year, but I'd be lying.

You see, I promised TMOTH that in exchange for his honest try at liver we could try a heart or tongue recipe in the future.

The best laid plans of mice and men...

--Rational Mama


  1. You all have my admiration!

    I wouldn't even have attempted it. Organ meats and I just don't get along. I think I prefer them hidden in my sausages. ;)

  2. Oh man. That made me giggle out loud.

    Good effort!

  3. laughing out loud I had to read this to the students hanging out in my class during break. hope the rice, pears, and PBJ will sustain you today!

  4. I thought when most people choked down livers, it was chicken livers? I have choked down a few of those....57 Sauce helps a lot. Maybe that will be your next recipe. Chicken livers with 57 Sauce dippin sauce. how many points does that take? You can get the generic- it's just fine ;)

  5. I'd like to comment here, but the combination of laughing at this post and being about to projectile vomit everywhere is preventing me from adding anything apposite.

  6. And then the people who like liver seem to LOVE it. Mr. Doom can't get enough of it. During one of my pregnancies, he tried to get me to eat a bite while we were at a restaurant. I honestly did vomit, which was horrible.

    I knew someone once who had a secret recipe. She soaked it overnight in something (milk?), then sliced it into strips and simmered it in beef gravy. It was ... the most edible liver I've ever encountered.