Tongue Spam: Eating Everything But the Moo!

While doing research , I ran across an old black and white magazine ad for SPAM.  In the Hormel line-up was Tongue Spam. Unfortunately, I can’t find the ad again in the internet maze, but it brought back a shadowy part of my childhood.


Don’t eat My Moo!

Now I’m not really that old. The problem was, we were dirt poor. As a matter of fact, about all we had was dirt. So, I grew up living 20 years behind the rest of the world’s modern conveniences.

“Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do.”

This wasn’t even a slogan for us. It was a lifestyle. We….

  • Saved bits and doodles of soap, and then melted it to make a soap bar. (As well as making our own lye soap)
  • I thought we were strutting with the elite when we got a wringer washing machine. I was petrified that the masher would take my little fingers off.
  • We grew or raised most of our food. Not because we were hippies, health-nuts, or part of a commune. All the old folks in the family had been kicked around by the dustbowl and the depression. They believed calamity could be hiding around every corner.
  • But the most interesting was eating animal parts that none of my classmates had ever seen in a grocery store.

 Grandma loved to tell us grandchildren, “I can use every part of

From the Historic C&GS Collection Location: Stratford, Texas

the cow, but the moo.”

Up until the age of six, I thought this was cool. Fortunately, my investigative powers of sass kicked in when I was about seven, and while getting a cooking lesson on some repellent food such as headcheese or sweetbreads, I asked her:

“Whaddya do with the eyeballs, Gramma?”

“Oh, heavens. I don’t use eyeballs. Just poor people have to use the eyeballs.” ( I was thrilled to discover we’d surpassed this benchmark of poverty.)

“Whaddya do with the hooves, Gramma?”

“Give ’em to the dogs.” (Yes, those cow hooves and knuckles strewn around the yard make wonderful lawn ornaments.)

“Will the dogs eat tongue too? Please?”



“Heavens, no, child. This is good eating.”

Then she’d throw it in the pressure cooker and steam it for thirty minutes. The weight on top of the cooker, rattled like it was building up to blast to the moon, and she was lecturing about the dangers of how it could blow like TNT in the hands of the unskilled cook.

For me, tongue is a fearful food. You can’t disguise it. No matter how much mustard you put on it. Or ketchup. It represents “hard times.”

I suppose if we had meat rationing today, I’d be pretty hungry. I’m not sure which I’m more afraid of…the tongue or the cooker. Sorry, for all the sass, Gramma, but thanks for teaching me there are times in life when you have to make do with the Moo.

About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in Appreciation, Choices, Cooking, Enough, Hope, Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Tongue Spam: Eating Everything But the Moo!

  1. xtremeenglish says:

    We ate it all, too. and I agree that tongue was the worst because of the bumps! I didn’t like heart, either. none of the accessories. ish.

  2. I still do that, and have trained my children to. We went through some rough times as they grew up–massive swings in income–and they always tell me they barely noticed because of how the family was managed. I like that.

  3. Margie says:

    Great blog topic and wonderful story! I think I’d have to chop that tongue up real quickly before I could do anything with it. It is rather disconcerting to look at…

  4. The tongue does look scary. Some culture use tongue as part of its delicacy dishes. I grew up in one of them and thought it was normal to and realize it’s not for all when I move to America. They do have it in walmart though!

  5. pegoleg says:

    We weren’t farm raised, and never were poor enough to have to eat unidentifiable parts. I thought I was deprived when we had to drink powdered milk one year!

  6. Elyse says:

    My now husband, then boyfriend, and I were traveling in Scotland, where he’d lived and had many friends. We stopped at the home of an old couple — parents of John’s closest friend. They served us a lovely lunch of various meats. I had a little of everything. One meat was something I’d never had. “This is tasty,” I said. What is it? Tongue came the reply. Mi was too surprised and polite to gag. My soon to be fiancé, has never stopped laughing at the incident, though.

    • Barb says:

      Ahhhh, good times. I’m guessing your first rule of travel became: Never ask what you’re eating. Sounds like your fiance’ has a sense of humor.

  7. JSD says:

    Geez, as a kid I detested liver. Now I need to thank my mother profusely for not serving us tongue. Oh, I just recently tried a teeny taste of headcheese or cheesehead (whatever it is)…Eeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww!

  8. My Mom used a pressure cooker to can food for the winter when we lived in the country. That was kind of cool. I don’t think I was much help then … except when it came to making pickles out of cucumbers.

    When we go out to eat and I see bread pudding listed as a dessert, I have to smile. Now it’s a pricey dessert. For my Mom’s family, when they grew up in the Great Depression, it was dinner if that’s all they had. How times change.

    • Barb says:

      YES!!! Oh Judy, I about fall over at the meat counter. Flank steak and oxtails are the new “designer” cuts. What a hoot. It’s almost enough to make me go back to ranching.

  9. Beth says:

    I’ve probably eaten all the things mentioned in the comments, except perhaps offal, but I don’t know what that is. Most of it was fine because it was prepared correctly. Like Brussels Sprouts taste wonderful if sprinkled with Meyer lemon infused olive oil, and broiled “to taste” (not incinerated), and topped with fresh ground parmesan or asiago.

  10. El Guapo says:

    A poorly maintained pressure cooker is a nightmare waiting to happen.
    A well prepared tongue, on the other hand, is a joy to behold.
    Or consume.
    On rye.
    With mustard.

    *rushes off to deli*

  11. digipicsphotography says:

    My mother was frugal to say the least when I was growing up, but we never ate tongue of any kind. As an adult, I have tried things like escargot, kalamari (sp?), oysters (yuk!), alligator, baby octopus, frog legs, shark….etc.🙂

    • Barb says:

      Yes, I guess a person should “try” everything. When visiting foreign countries, I find it best not to ask, “What’s in it?” Somehow it just doens’t taste the same after knowing the ingredients. I guess the same could be said of Vienna Sausages, too.

  12. Recie says:

    Reminds me of the convent, back when we too ate tongue, head cheese, and blood sausage. Tongue was the worst, though, because of the bumps. We had no choice. We had to eat it. Thanks for the memories.

  13. There are a lot of international market places around here, and they sell ALL kinds of animal parts that’d ordinarily be tossed into a butcher’s garbage can. So, far, I’ve had absolutely no inclination to try tongue, testicles, brains, or stomach, and don’t expect I ever will. If that’s the only meat choice I had, I’d turn vegetarian. (Brussel sprouts included… they ARE good if they aren’t overcooked.) I suppose we were kinda poor, too, but I didn’t realize it at the time. We ate a lot of soup… flavored with a teensy piece of fatty beef. We may not have eaten “fancy”, but we never went hungry.

    • Barb says:

      I think you hit the heart of the matter (also an organ meat which can be eaten). We make do with what we have. It’s all about staving off hunger. I guess some folks eat canned dog food due to lack of money, so I don’t mean to be putting it down. It just wasn’t my favorite meal.

  14. Actually, I like tongue. There’s a deli in the federal building downtown that serves an addictive tongue sandwich. I used to buy my lunch there once a month as a treat. Haven’t tried tripe yet. Menudo is on my bucket list. Come to think of it, I’ve eaten Haggis, and there may have been tripe in there. Chop it fine and mix it with fried onions and I’ll eat about anything.

    My Dad’s dad liked fried pig tails. Grandma used to say that Norwegians used every part of the pig but the squeal – and then people invented radio and they used pig-squeals for the warming-up and tuning-in sounds.

    • Barb says:

      I’m not familiar with the restaurant downtown, M.J., but my favorite Mexican restaurant has all these things. I stay closer to the enchilada side of the menu. But you have a point. Chopped, seasoned, and attractively served most people would eat. i don’t ever remember eating a pig’s tail, so I had to look it up. The recipe starts with “Take 6 dozen pig tails.”
      Oh, well, that’s the problem, we just slaughtered one pig at a time. The dog probably got the tail. Lucky dog.

  15. “Everything but the moo”. Memorable saying and title.
    My mother used a pressure cooker. I asked her if we could use it for a school play as a prop we needed. Seems someone needed it worse than we did as it was stolen. The end. Never saw that pressure cooker or another one again.

    • Barb says:

      I’m wondering if many people use pressure cookers anymore. I use a big one for canning, but I wonder how little-cooker-sales are going.

      Well, I just paused to look it up. You can get a 4 qt. cooker for $50 at Target to replace your stolen one. Now you can enjoy pigtails and tongue again. You’re welcome.

  16. Rose L. says:

    UGH!!! I could never eat tongue!!!! It just looks so bad! I do like chicken livers though.

    • Barb says:

      Yeah, those little chickie livers seem tiny and innocent. Yet they’re chock-full of cholesterol. And I’ve always wondered…don’t you get a liver, neck and gizzard with every whole chicken? Where do those tubs of livers come from? Chickens who’ve sold their parts?

      • Rose L. says:

        Hmmm, maybe from the reject chickens who were dubbed too skinny to eat? Or from ones who have teeny breasts? My doctor told me the livers are good to eat to get iron! I did not know about cholesterol.

  17. Good story. I really connect with the pressure cooker. My mother gave me one after I married. I was so afraid of the thing that I would call her and keep her on the phone while I operated it. I finally decided I didn’t have to pressure cook if I didn’t want to–another hangover from childhood. I thought I had to mind my mother.

    • Barb says:

      I’m curious, Myra…did you get rid of the cooker? Or did you stick it way back in the bottom cabinet. Funny the things we hang onto and the reasons why.

  18. dorannrule says:

    Oh thanks for this post! It does this bring back memories! I never thought we were poor. I thought we were rich. But Mom saved bits of soap and we had tongue, which I thought was just another lunch meat that made a good sandwich! Eeeeewww! Chicken livers and gizzards were popular too.

    • Barb says:

      You know, Dorann, I forgot all about gizzards. There was just a folded one per chicken and one of the adults usually nabbed it, so gizzard-avoidance wasn’t a problem. All I remember is that it’s a chewy little bugger. Yes? Is that right?

  19. Thank you. Rabbit represents poverty food to me. When times were tough my father would go out with a gun. Bleah.
    Sometimes with a fishing rod – that was ok.
    And we too used, reused, made do – and did without. And we didn’t do without enough some days. Like offal. And tongue.
    Years later my mother told me I couldn’t be a vegetarian because I don’t like brussel sprouts. Some of the meat she dished up seemed to slip her mind. I am a vegetarian – and still don’t eat sprouts. Though I suspect that if they weren’t boiled to death they may, just may be palatable. And even boiled to death they are preferable to tongue.

    • Barb says:

      Yep, squirrel was our weekly hunting food. I didn’t know you were a vegetarian….which is pretty amazing since you grew up on bland, mushy veggies. My mother boiled everything until it lost its color, too. I don’t know why they did that. Maybe they were afraid of bugs or parasites, but I suspect it was because they were doing 15 other things than watching the pot boil.

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