There was a supposedly interesting programme on BBC4 about how the human brain works, which I almost watched, until the irritating presenter, the pseudo-psychedelic graphics and the usual portentous music turned me, and the TV, off.
But it reminded me of a little story from about forty years ago, which I will now tell you. I’d issue one of those ‘this might bother you’ alerts if I could remember what they were called. But anyway, here goes.
One of the many things I learned when I lived in Italy was an appreciation of all sorts of offal. Brain (pigs or calves) was one of these. [Treat it like sweetbreads or very tender calves’ liver, a dusting of well-seasoned flour and flashed in hot butter, delicately delicious.]
So one day it was decided that the local butcher would be put on the spot. I can’t remember exactly how the question was posed, but he rose to the challenge. It turned out that he had a pig’s head in the back room, which he’d be happy to split open for us. (This must have been in the days when butchers bought in whole carcasses and did the business on the premises.) The head was duly fetched out, carefully split open, carefully, with a gently wielded cleaver, and – I can picture it to this day – the brains drawn out and presented, on the palm of his hand, for our inspection.
“Hmm,” I remember saying. “Not much, is there?”
The butcher gave me one of those smiles that say ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment for years’.
“If ‘e ’ad any more, it’d be ‘im eatin’ uz.”