Last Annual Washtenaw County "Festival of Tripe"

From the Huron Valley Advisor - February 11, 1970

I would imagine that many of you have shared with me a curiosity about some of the folk festivals which are part of the regional life of America: How were they started? Who were the original participants: What provided the initial impetus? Perhaps a recounting of the history of The First Annual Washtenaw County Festival of Tripe would be of some small use to future festival historians.

I, as you know, am the food columnist for a small but influential weekly newspaper. I am also the wife of a man who regards himself as the overseer of that food column. In his capacity of overseer, Irvin has been bugging me these last several months to write a column on tripe. No matter that I had never eaten tripe, let alone cooked it. Washtenaw County was obviously waiting for my definitive word on the subject.

Thus it was that I decided to draw together many of the better cooks in the county to discuss, cook, and eat a variety of tripe dishes. Unfortunately, many of the better cooks who received invitations to join the festival responded with "Tripe? You're out of you mind!"

However, some of the more innovative of the cooks agreed to try their hands (and digestions) at the endeavor and we proceeded to assign parts. The soup, Philadelphia Pepper Pot was assigned to Judy Greenbaum. Doris Gerganoff was to concoct a thing that her husband recalled his mother making. Scotty McElroy, who, in her role as Navy wife, had a wide acquaintance with foreign climes, was to provide tripe curry. Jan Longone was given Tripe Catalan. And this food columnist was to do the piece de resistance, Tripe a la mode de Caen.

The first disaster occurred when I broke the pastry seal and looked in the pot after baking the tripe for ten hours. Instead of being the lovely soupy mixture that Irvin remembered, it was a gummy, charred mess on the bottom of the pot. Later inspection of the ruins prompted Dan Longone to remark that this was The Last Annual Festival of Tripe. (My husband, who never gives up, has convinced me, who never learns, to try again).

A few minutes after I had observed my catastrophe, Judy called to say that her soup had boiled down to a shadow of its former self, was a horrible brown color, and the only reason it was edible at all was that had added so many other ingredients that the tripe was overpowered. We told her to bring it along anyway and began to consider sending out for pizza.

Doris called soon after to say that her concoction didn't taste too awful but would have tasted quite good if she had left out the tripe. Would we like her to bring pizza?

We called Scotty to check on the curry and she said that it looked alright but smelled so vile that she hadn't the nerve to taste it. Later sampling proved it to be a marvelous curry if one only overlooked the tripe.

Eventually we all assembled for the Festival, the group first filing past the remains of my Tripe a la mode de Caen, rather in the manner of old friends paying their last respects at a funeral bier.

The one huge success of the evening was Jan's Tripe Catalan and the recipe follows – the single spectacular relic of The Last Annual Washtenaw County Festival of Tripe.

Longone's Tripe Catalan

Soak 2 lbs. of honeycomb tripe overnight in cold water. Drain, cover it with water in a saucepan and bring to the boiling point. Simmer for 3 hours or until tender. Drain the tripe and cut it into strips 3 inches by 1 inch. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a saucepan and add 2 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings, 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped, 3 or 4 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped, 1 can tomato sauce, the trip, a bouquet garni of 2 springs fennel, 8 crushed peppercorns, 1 tsp. Salt and a fresh grating of nutmeg. Mix well and add 3/4 cup chablis. Cover the pan and set in a 325 oven for about 1 hour. Just before serving add 1 cup canned drained pineapple and cook just enough longer to warm. Transfer the tripe to a heated platter, sprinkle with finely chopped parsley, chives and a bit of fennel.