The chopstick was to blame. It was too thin for the intricate task: It was no match for the slippery offal.
The few grams of small intestine almost didn’t make it into this year’s Easter soup.
The lamb’s head, stomach, liver and heart were easy to wash and cut. The shanks were harder and may have belonged to a sheep.
“Mεγαλο ζώο ήταν,” my mother declared.
But, the small intestine would be the biggest problem.
My 88-year-old mother and I made the Greek soup “μαγειριτσα”, with minced tripe, on Easter Saturday and it lay waiting to be eaten after the midnight mass marking Christ’s resurrection as the soup to end the Lenten fast. But, someone had been through my mother’s cutlery drawer and replaced the old thick chopsticks with new slim ones and there would be hell to pay for it if she were to find the culprit.
“Δεν γυρίζουν,” my mother said as she struggled to turn the small intestine inside out to wash it.
“Δεν μπορώ. θα τα αφήσω.”
She was about to throw in her Chinese chopstick and call it quits. Then she changed her mind.
“Έλα κόψε,” she said, directing me to cut the intestine. “Έλα, και από εδώ. Kόψει,” and she told me to cut some more intestine.
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“Πιάστηκα,” she said and arched her back to relieve the pain from standing so long.
But no matter what we did, the small intestine wasn’t for turning.
Only turning the small intestine inside out would guarantee its proper cleaning, my mother proclaimed.
“Μήπως φταίει το ξύλο;” she asked. “Tώρα;”
My mother wondered if the chopstick was to blame. It was. What would she do now? She would keep threading the small intestine through the chopstick, slowly pulling it out, then squeezing out the bile and getting me to cut the intestine.
Then she remembered how her mother used to clean that stubborn small intestine that wouldn’t turn inside out and drowned the cut intestine into a bowl of vinegar.
That would clean it.
Putting the soup to the boil
Meanwhile, we put the lamb’s head and shanks to boil in one pot, the liver in another and the stomach in a third.
After an hour, the meat was partially cooked and taken off the boil. We kept the juice from the boiled head and shanks. It was succulent.
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“Τελευταίο νερό είναι αυτό,” my mother said. “Έχει όλη την νοστιμιά.”
I deboned the meat from the shanks. Crack, crack, crack. Swish and the brain popped out of the lamb’s head. Oh, there goes the eyes. Don’t forget to scoop out the tongue.
With all the offal meats cut, combined and boiled for hours with spring onion and rice, who could know “μαγειριτσα’ς” smallest ingredient caused us the biggest problem?
Warmed-up and drizzled with lemon juice and eaten after a week of veganism, who would care?
“Χριστός Ανέστη,” half the assembled hungry carnivores proclaimed.
“Christ has truly risen,” responded the rest.