There is no way that I can claim that I was always an adventurous eater. I had never eaten a curry before I went to university and I only knew what a butternut squash was because of my Saturday job at Sainsbury's. It's the enthusiasm and adventurous nature of some of our TV chefs that has opened my eyes to the endless culinary possibilities that are waiting to be found. People like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Stephan Gates made me think about eating more than what most shops choose to sell us.
One of the things that changed was my attitude to food. No longer did I accept that I didn't like something until I had tried it. I had a new outlook, if people were eating it, it had to be good enough to eat. One food that epitomised this view is tripe. It is eaten the world over and has only recently fallen from the menus of Britain. I was unconvinced, but once I get an idea into my thick head it sticks. How bad could it be?
I didn't go out of my way to buy and cook tripe but I did start looking out for it on restaurant menus. The first time I found it was on honeymoon, in Mexico. For the first and only time in our lives we had booked an all inclusive beach holiday, the idea being that it would force us to unwind after the chaos of the previous couple of months wedding planning.
The buffet counter was really set up for American families on Spring Break. Past the burger bar, beyond the rotisserie chicken, hidden by the tex mex build-your-own-burrito bar, was a small counter with some traditional Mexican food. It was possibly the safest way to try a new food. It was an eat as much as you can buffet counter, so if it was a disaster and I didn't like the tripe stew that I had chosen, I could just go back and get something else. That is exactly what I did.
I wasn't defeated though. I have had tripe several times since and am happy to say that I found a really good plate of tripe and beans in a small tapas bar in Barcelona. Knowing that it is edible, tasty and has a good texture, if cooked well, means that I no longer feel the need to eat tripe. I certainly still have no desire to cook it for myself. Apart from one thing.
The Tripe Shop, Unit 145, Row B, 1976 Market Hall in Leeds Kirkgate Market, has been flirting with me since I moved to Leeds. Hidden away from the rest of the butchers, it would be very easy to walk through the market and never see the small counter. Malt vinegar bottles and white pepper pots stand guard over the cuts of meat that most people probably feel should be thrown away. I realised that I had been telling people about it without ever shopping there. Last weekend I decided to rectify this situation.
Rather than tripe or esophagus, I decided to buy a couple of the more appetising sounding Savoury Ducks. To the uninitiated, savoury ducks, or faggots, are large meatballs made of pork and offal, covered in caul fat and baked. I can't tell you exactly what is in the Tripe Shop's ducks but I can tell you that the stall owner thinks that old recipes used to contain dock leaves, hence the name.
That pearl of wisdom was all that I got, no ingredients list and no serving suggestion. I decided to re-heat the ducks in a rich beef gravy and serve them with a pile of mashed potatoes and steamed leeks, it is autumn after all. Having now tucked into my first savoury duck I'm happy to say that they are very nice. Somewhere between sausages and burgers, very rich and as you would expect, savoury. At £1 per duck they aren't expensive, but if we do go back for more we'll probably share one between the two of us.