Years ago, when one of my chief creative outlets was writing short, humorous articles for a defunct online humor magazine, I got tired of people assuming 9/11 was the ONLY bad thing had ever happened, so that a whole genre of ‘news’ reporting arose around the concept that *everyone’s* life had been changed *forever*.
I dunno, but my concept of ‘everyone’ includes rural Chinese, Brazilian and Indian farmers, everybody who lives in Africa, and so on. As tragic and traumatic as 9/11 was (I seriously looked into moving the family to New Zealand, figuring it would be the last place the Jihad reached), it isn’t the greatest evil ever, nor even the greatest evil to happen in the U.S. (I would put the Civil War, and the restrictions on liberty that were allowed *after* 9/11, higher on the list).
So, anyway, I wrote an article from the point of view of a reporter who is shocked to hear of someone utterly unaffected by the events of 9/11 – a Mongolian goat herder. A trifle, like almost everything I write.
Yet – to answer the ‘why am I reading this?’ question – during my 5 minutes of research on Mongolia in order to make sure I used real Mongolian names and didn’t make any other egregious factual errors, I came across recipes for the great Mongolian delicacy: boodog. Unfortunately, the utterly quaint and home-grown rah-rah page for getting people to visit Mongolia where I first encountered boodog has vanished into the ether, at least to the extent I’m willing to search for it (+/- 4 minutes). This page captures some of the features that have forever endeared Mongolia and Mongolians to me:
Boodog – Боодог
Marmot or goat, cooked with hot stones in the stomach.
Next to Khorkhog, the cuisine of Mongolia knows a second recipe that uses hot stones for cooking. Boodog uses a similar cooking method, except that the meat isn’t cut into pieces. The stones are instead filled into the stomach of the animal, which gets cooked within its own skin.
Hang a marmot or a goat at the head, and cut the skin around its neck. Now it is possible to pull the skin and most of the meat down over the inner skeleton. Break the legs at the knee, so that you only need to pull out the upper leg bones. From the innards, keep the liver and kidneys, which can later be inserted again.
Turn the removed skin and meat back, so that the hair is at the outside again. Fill the resulting “sack” with the following ingredients: Some salt, one or two peeled onions, and a number of stones, that have been heated up in a fire for about an hour. The stones must have a smooth and round surface. The smaller ones go into the upper legs, the larger ones into the abdominal cavity. At the end, the neck is closed with a piece of wire.
Now you need a strong flame (e.g. a blowtorch) to burn away the fur. Then scratch the remains off together with the uppermost layer of the skin. During that process, the meat gets cooked from the inside and the outside. If the steam forming inside causes too much pressure, then you need to cut a few small holes into the skin to avoid an explosion. The meat is cooked enough when all of the skin surface leaks with fat.
This easy-to-follow recipe involves hanging a goat (or marmot! A recipe that works just as well for large squirrels as for goats!), carefully skinning it, gutting it, saving the liver and kidneys (you gonna eat that?), heating a bunch of round rocks, stuffing said rocks, along with the meat, kidneys, liver, a couple onions, and salt back into the skin, and finally sewing the neck opening closed with wire. Then, using your handy blowtorch, you burn off all the hair on the outside (that’s gotta smell great, even assuming you got a chance to shampoo the goat beforehand). Cautions include taking care that the sewn-up skin doesn’t explode during cooking – that could be bad, and a terrible waste of marmot.
As great as all this is, the original recipe I saw was better: it included the instruction to “first, kill the goat”, cautions against puncturing the skin during removal, the suggestion to pour in a liter of vodka (I’m now imagining exploding *flaming* goat), and an admonition to eat it all while it’s still hot, as it becomes less appetizing as the grease in the skin congeals.
Good times! I want “Throwin’ down the boodog!” to enter our language as the ultimate declaration you are partying down! Who’s with me on this?
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