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The Essay
Show #391
Lamb Brains
David Gunn

Lamb brains burrito. Beano Bengaze read the proposed menu item twice. Three times. Lamb brains burrito? What was the prefect thinking?! Here it was Homecoming Weekend for the In Situ Culinary Institute, a time when current, former and potential students dragged their parents--who were potential benefactors--onto campus, and that, that weirdo school administrator, Lark A. Clobberworm, had selected a radically unappetizing entrée for the Friday Night Banquet. As Head of Kitchens, it was Beano's responsibility to turn the prefect's ideas into toothsome repasts, but lately, his ideas hinted that he had eaten too well of last month's Amanita au Vin. Lamb brains--were there even any in the larder? He last recalled employing brains in a recipe for the visiting Shundar of Adzharistan, whose people considered it a Fude of the Gawds. But those were birdbrains, and he shuddered at the memory of having to personally extract the cranial contents of a dozen live whooping cranes. It was probably the most politically incorrect hors d'oeuvre on the planet, and the fact that the Shundar demanded to watch the prep work made it all the more distasteful.

Beano looked in the freezer, the walk-in cooler and the refrigeration tank. No brains. He checked the school cafeteria, the caterer's prep room and the sauna snack bar. Still no brains. Another unpalatable memory of a recent dessert prepared by a Clobberworm pupil suddenly surfaced, and he popped the top of the institute's electro-freeze soft-serve ice cream machine. Bingo.

"Because brains are very delicate," cautions the Joy of Cooking, "always handle them with care; they have a tendency to fall apart." Well, these were way past "fallen apart." They rather resembled--Beano shuddered at an image that was too repugnant even for words.

He carefully drained the machine and decanted the brain broth into a beaker. Disgusting! Even with an ample side of amanita, this slop was not fit for human consumption. He would need more brains.

He rang for Igor, the school's notorious provisions procurer. If a culinary component was utterly unavailable, Igor would find it anyway. Narwhal tusk powder, coelacanth tonsils, fresh dodo beak, the essence of two midges that had just copulated on the fruit of a baobab tree--nothing was too far-fetched. No one knew how he did it, and no one dared to ask. Beano glanced down at the weekend menu and was startled to see Igor peering back at him. The provisioner peeled himself off the page and simultaneously achieved three-dimensional corporeality.

"What now want?" he chuntered. "Brains." Beano said. "Lamb brains. For a burrito, you know," he added. "Enough to feed thirty hearty trenchermen." Igor grunted, nodded, and dived back onto the menu page. Of course, when Beano picked it up again, Igor was nowhere in sight.

Preparing for Homecoming Weekend involved much more than acquiring ingredients for a couple dozen burritos, and Beano soon was immersed in overseeing a myriad other culinary matters: smoking the sweetbreads, chopping the cacciatore, rendering the ratatouille, puréing the pawpaws. He had completely forgotten about the main course until late Friday afternoon, when Chef Trembleque reported that the porcini had been pickled, the chitterling chutney chopped, and that all constituent parts of the burritos were accounted for and ready to assemble. A chill skidded down Beano's spine. How did Igor do it? Well, no matter. Mission accomplished and well done!

Which was how Chef Trembleque cooked the brains, for he physically quailed at their gelatinous texture. Then he laced them with galangal, sambal and banana root, squeezed the mixture through a pastry bag onto a corn tortilla, garnished them with curried meringue, and served. It was a hit! All thirty servings of the odd but evidently delicious dish were gone in a flash.

Which was the context in which Beano suddenly was aware of the unexplained absence of the dinner speaker, the 1955 Nobel Prize winner for physics, Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr. The chill returned and congealed over the 8th through 13th vertebrae of his spine as he imagined that another scientist would have to take up the cause of researching magnetron oscillators and microwave spectroscopy--someone with a less succulent brain. He chanced to glance down at the reservation list at that moment, and Igor leered back at him, winked, and disappeared.

We hope the appetite for odd but ultimately tasty tunes of you, our radiophonic listeners, has not similarly disappeared, for this 391st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar features not one but two interviews! It likewise features the timely return of and explanation of same by the fortnightedly disappeared Kalvos.