What are the outer bounds of food culture? What are the limits to what we are willing to call food? To what emotional and physiological challenging extremes are you willing to venture? Does something need to stop moving before you put it in your mouth? Can it be an organ meat? Does it need to be cooked? Covered in cheese?
Some say the buck stops with testicles.
Thanks in part to an internet stuffed full of food media, streaming content of globetrotting gastronomic daredevils, and a ravenous appetite for Instagram populism “where we place our careful portraits of home chef cosplay”, thrill-seeking food extremism has become mainstream.
Okay, so I’ll see your balut, (a hard-boiled duck egg where you are essentially eating a duck fetus in utero), and raise you a pair of whitetail gonads.
But wait! Is consuming either of these really about attention-grabbing, or adventure food extremism? Or, are they simply representative of the intersection of food history and culture?
For ancient Greeks, the bull symbolized strength and fertility. They believed that eating raw testicles boosted testosterone levels, strength and libido. The practice was seen as a sign of masculinity and a means to enhance performance of Olympic athletes who desired to win at all costs.
Cowboy culture of the Old West had a similar relationship with “tendergroins”. While culling hundreds of bull calves for castration, the Cookie and the chuckwagon crew commonly prepared calf fries, (Original sack lunch?), to give the cowboys added stamina for long rides.
Spaniards make criadillas, (bull fries), from the animals killed during bullfighting. The custom dates to the early 16th century. It was seen as a way to boost a matador’s bravery, masculinity and virility.
Miloš Oberonović, a Serbian revolutionary who became the first Prince of Serbia, was convinced that “white kidneys” (Serbian for testicles), increased sexual potency and had aphrodisiac powers. He also believed that the white kidneys, (best eaten cooled and “live” i.e. raw), were not effective unless there was a harmonious combination of psyche and physiology. After eating, Prince Miloš often engaged in physical activity as a means to expend the positive energy and various hormones and minerals taken into his body. Wink, wink.
Modern Serbs, however, have elevated the cultural custom to worldwide culinary status. 2019 marked the 15th annual World Testicle Cooking Championship in Lipovica. The event, called, called The Ball Cup, attracts chefs from around the world. There you will find recipes ball goulash, testicle pizza, salty balls, white kidney stew, and minced testicle pie, among many others.
If you’ve never had the dangly woodland berries yourself, you are you missing out! Some may squirm in their chairs, cross their legs, and cringe, but truly these were wonderful; delicate in both texture and flavor. It is reminiscent of eating Weisswurst; a German white sausage made with minced veal, but without the casing.
Here’s how to make whitetail testes battered and fried: