She’s properly called Tallulah, but she comes (sometimes) when we yell “Lulu!” She’s four-years old and is supposed to be a golden retriever. Like the Holy Roman Empire (neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire), she is neither golden nor a retriever, since she doesn’t retrieve (except when the Italian Scallion returns home from a hard day’s work at which point she’ll pick up any shoe at random and parade around the house). She’s white, abhors water (except if it’s in her bowl), and disdains birds. Except, of course, when she’s barking at the many pigeons who occupy too many of the buildings around where she lives. And surely that must go against the breed which – if memory serves – is meant to wait patiently and quietly while a gunshot takes out a fowl from the sky; said fowl then falls into water whereupon a true retriever retrieves, gently, with a light clench so as not to crush the newly-dead bird.
Lulu prefers chasing deer. That is, until they were all gone from the woods (through no fault of her own). She is a Scottish deerhound masquerading as a golden retriever.
Lulu, a Libran, was born in October 2005 in Greve in Chianti, just south of Florence. She can lay claim to being Florentine (oh-so-important in this part of the world). Her titled mother Millie produced nine others but Lulu, it appears, was always Top Dog (equally titled pa retired from the scene after having done the deed in Arezzo some weeks before). Once the pups were weaned, Lulu possessed the remarkable ability to inhale her food, and then proceed to the bowls of her siblings, who acknowledged her queenly status and gave way. When she came to us in December, just before Christmas, she was a butterball of retriever-ness.
In the past almost five years, thanks to the Baden-Powell regimen largely due to the Italian Scallion (who, it should be noted, is one-quarter English), she has slimmed down because of obligatory runs in the woods, food monitoring (my doing), and the fact that Waldo (who eats just about as quickly) and Harry (who doesn’t) will not let her near their bowls.
Tripe is popular in Italy, especially in and around Florence. It’s sold in markets, in grocery stores. It’s sold in cans for people (before feeding some to the Three Stooges, I sampled some, and it wasn’t bad at all) who, I suppose, can’t be bothered with the tricky business of cleaning it, soaking it, cooking it. If you go to a pet shop anywhere in Florence, or in Livorno, aisles teem with cans of less-good tripe for pups.
What is tripe? If one could call this food “niche,” it would certainly be that. It’s bovine stomach lining, it’s cucina povera (poor people’s cooking). It’s an acquired taste. The Gourmet Cookbook (New York, 2004) has a lovely description of the product – check it out if you have it, and just one recipe (trippa alla romana). The penultimate re-do of Joy of Cooking (1997) contains zero tripe recipes; its predecessor (1931, and republished/reprinted countless times) has three recipes.
Our pups, like pups world-wide, are omnivores (though if one could describe a dog as a picky eater, think Harry). They usually eat dried kibble tossed with a tablespoon of sunflower oil. Often we enliven the dried kibble with wet (canned) dog food, or a bit of meat, or fatiguing leftovers in the refrigerator (or what’s about to go off such as tonight’s supplement, a Greek fava bean stew). The Three Stooges thrill to the Enlivenment.
The other day said Enlivenment came in the form of canned (for people) tripe. Pups waited patiently at their dining stations. Cracked open the can. Looked over at Lulu. Acute sense of smell, or simple lover of canned goods? Who knows … but she was drooling. Really, truly drooling. Totally unbecoming. Would have pretended not to know her had we been out in public, but we weren’t. In fact, the four of us were all alone in a country kitchen in Tuscany. No one could have seen my tears of … um … relish?
Years ago, my sister Kerry (the very same who scoffs at tripe) likened golden retrievers to Christie Brinkley. Tall, blonde, gorgeous (perhaps boring was implied, but I am not sure). Kerry pointed out that retrievers dominate the packaging in most pet food aisles. They – and their very near cousin the Labrador retriever – certainly overwhelm the L.L. Bean catalogue (http://www.llbean.com/). (When they put a mutt on one of their lovely dog beds, I will do … I’m not sure what.) Goldens are beautiful, well-tempered, dogs, and perhaps the cutest puppies in the world. You tend to think of them – well, at least, I do – as elegant, classic, and perfect dogs for children. You don’t tend to think of them – well, at least I don’t – as droolers.
This led me to Elvis Presley, and “Hound Dog” and those immortal lines, “When they said you was high classed/Well that was just a lie.” This could be Lulu’s theme song. Re-do the lyrics to include drool somewhere.
Here’s a tripe recipe to please even those who refuse to eat tripe. It’s adapted from a slim, wonderful volume called “La povera nobilità della trippa”/The penniless nobility of tripe (Lucca, 2000) by Laura Rangoni.
Trippa alla falsica
1/2 lb. minced pork
½ lb. canned tomatoes
4 tasty pork sausages (with hot pepper, if you want some spice)
2 celery stalks
1 good-sized glass of Chianti
1 equally sized glass of top-notch extra-virgin olive oil
¼ lb. of Pecorino, grated (if in the States, you’ll probably have to use Pecorino Romano, which isn’t Tuscan at all but, in fact, Roman)
A handful of fresh thyme and rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ lb. tripe, optional
According to Laura Rangoni, the name of this dish, originally from the Maremma (southern Tuscany), derives from the Latin venter faliscus.
She suggests that you finely dice the vegetables, and let them cook for about a half an hour, then add the sausage (taken from its casing), add the wine and let it evaporate. Then you throw in the other ingredients, turn the flame low, and let the mixture cook for a couple of hours. Serve it up, and drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil.
The Italian Scallion made this lovely dish a couple of Sundays ago with tripe. You don’t have to.
But yeah: we’re gonna keep feedin’ more. To the dogs, that is.
 As my sister argues. However, a Google search, in English, for tripe recipes revealed 49,500,000 hits.
 Fried, à la mode [de] Caen (involves calves’ feet, suet, Calvados, and soothing baked potatoes), and Spanish (distinguished by the addition of diced green pepper, minced ham, and mushrooms). Wondering about this, I checked out tripe listings in 1080 Recipes (Phaidon, couldn’t find the year of publication anywhere, but rather recent English translation), the Spanish Joy of Cooking. Two recipes: one, in French sauce (differentiated from à la mode de Caen by the addition of a pig’s snout; the French sauce is a basic béchamel but made with beef stock, then egg yolks and lemon juice are added); the Madrid-style recipe includes pig’s snout, calf or ox foot, and chorizo and andouille sausages).
 http://www.lyricsfreak.com/. What’s pretty puzzling is that the original song, recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1952, is clearly about a man coming ‘round sniffing at the singer’s door (“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog/Been snoopin’ round the door … You can wag your tail/But I ain’t gonna feed you more” (http://lyrics.wikia.com/). No mention of catching rabbits and friendship. Perhaps it would have been tricky for 1950s Elvis to sing about men snoopin’ round his door. Wouldn’t a Rufus Wainwright or Adam Lambert cover be swell?