I grew up eating the odds and ends of animals--my palate was developed by Neapolitan parents and aunts and uncles. Lore of my childhood is filled with stories of my eating brodo di pulpo (octopus broth), brandied cherries and raw clams. I say lore because these stories were told to me, but of course I don't remember them because I was in Italy until I was only 3 years old. Apparently, I was sly--for instance in the case of the clams, I figure out that if I stated that my clam shell was empty, I would quickly be given another. I was a shiesty toddler but I would like to believe that it is what made me the woman I am today
What I do remember is that we brought our peasant food customs to the US with us and never felt more at home than when we would visit Naples and enjoy some of the street food. "Piede e Musso" (translated means foot and mouth--either of cow, but mostly pig) was one of my favorites and still is. We know now through the ancient ruins of Pompeii that eating on the street dates back to ancient times.
Today, you will find this treat in city of Naples served in paper funnels with a squeeze of lemon. It is all textural bliss with a medley of pig snout, pig feet and tripe. To me, it is the star of Neapolitan Street Food (I have also found it in the streets of Sicily, particularly in Palermo and Catania). Other pig inspired street treats there is “zuppa e carnacotta” (tripe soup) and “taralli”-the real Neopolitan (taralli nzogna e pepe) biscuits are smothered and cooked in pork fat with almonds and pepper. And then there is “gnugia” -intestine stuffed inside of pig intestine and and then hung to dry and when it is cooked it has the odor of what had once passed through those intestines-- but believe me when I say they are salty deliciousness!
In New Jersey, we could still find tripe and the occasional pig feet in our markets but snout--harder to find. My friends visiting my home thought we were strange and had no problem expressing it and my mother thought they were rude for expressing it! She would say “Americans--no manners, let them eat their hamb-urg-er!" I have never found offal offensive, so that helps-I am fascinated by it in horror movies, was head of the class in dissection in my anatomy classes and will eat and enjoy almost all of it--except sweetbreads-too soft. In NYC, I can still find my odds and ends on Avenue D on the lower East Side. (Check out Animal Parts on Avenue D)
Now of course, I am considered a foodie for eating these parts, I have been vindicated. And to all parents, if you want foodie children, studies show it takes exposure to pig snout eight times for the little ones to acquire the taste-so don't give up!