French food writer Vie tenders a panoramic profile of the testicle as totem and tasty.
Certainly in the world of one-note food books—salt, cod, milk, eggs, etc.—there is room for this tribute to the testicle, for balls hardly figure at all in cookbooks, which has more to do with fancy than fact: Testicles were among the choicest morsels in the French courts of the 17th and 18th centuries; they were esteemed as hors d’oeuvres in the classic and bourgeois cooking of the 19th century; they were the offal of choice in the American cowboy community; perhaps most importantly, they were the offal of choice among butchers, who know the best and kept it to themselves. The purpose of the book, writes Vie, is to honor and rehabilitate the testicle, and she writes of it (or them) with wit. She proceeds through a short course of testicles in mythology, in the Bible and the Koran and as metaphors, then shifts into an annotated lexicon of the anatomical, culinary and fantastic terms to describe the edible little things. The degree of detail is mesmerizing, and Vie provides a rangy section on preparation: recipes in the Tunisian style and the Moroccan fashion, how to freeze testicles, how to cook them with citrus and much more. MacDonogh delivers a lively translation as well as added valuable marginalia.
A delightful mix of good humor and scholarship.