NPR’s This American Life recently featured a story about a claim that restaurants and food distributors might be taking sliced pig rectum or “bung” as they call it in the industry, coating it in batter, deep frying it, slapping it on a plate with a side of marinara and serving it to you under the guise of calamari. And you say you’re not an adventurous eater.
I must point out that this hasn’t been proven, however a few folks in the industry have gone on record to say that they’ve been told by their employers that those boxes of white, rubbery, ring like pig bits are being sold specifically as imitation calamari because it’s half the price of real squid.
Of course I’m not putting a lot of stock in the validity of this, but I am thinking back to the many times I’ve found myself eating a chewy, rubbery, almost inedible piece of fried calamari at a restaurant. I’ve also eaten pig rectum or “bung” or chitterlings (all the same thing) and been completely aware of it, and I have to say, they don’t taste a lot like squid. Texture-wise though, it’s a lot closer than folks might want to believe.
So whether or not this is true and whether or not we’ll ever get to the bottom (no pun intended) of this story, it does raise a laundry list of questions and concerns. Of course there’s the whole legal and FDA side of it…the moral and religious side of it for those who choose not to eat pork…the scary idea that we might not ever really know what we’re consuming when we eat pre-packaged or pre-made items at home or at restaurants. But I’d prefer to ask this question…why is it ok to eat intestines, but not the bit a few inches down?
If you’ve ever eaten sausage with natural casings you’ve eaten pig intestines, which are, just a bit down the pig innards road from the bung. And the ingredients in that sausage might hold even more surprising animal bits and pieces. But basically everyone I know (who isn’t vegan or vegetarian) will happily chow down on some sausage. So why do we have such an aversion to certain parts of the animal, and even worse, why do we turn our noses up at things we initially loved after we find out what they’re really made of or where they’re really from? I have a friend who actually said, “I won’t eat those if they’re from real chickens” in response to being given a dozen eggs from a friend’s backyard chickens. I’ve had people not want to eat pork belly because they thought it was from the actual stomach of the pig. They were then shocked to learn it’s where bacon comes from. And we’re just talking bacon and eggs here! This list goes on and on.
If so much of our food tendencies and aversions can be swayed by packaging or as simple as something like a name…the word bung comes to mind…what does that say about us? I think that question is right up there with “is this calamari or pig butt-hole”.