A while ago, a farmer walked through a pork processing plant in Oklahoma with a friend who managed it. He came across boxes stacked on the floor with labels that said “artificial calamari.” So he asked his friend “What’s artificial calamari?” “Bung,” his friend replied. “Hog rectum.”
Have you or I eaten bung dressed up as seafood? In Episode 484 of “This American Life” reporter Ben Calhoun investigates. After exhaustive research and questioning everyone he can find, Ben never arrives at a definitive answer to the question “are restaurants actually substituting pork bung for calamari?”
Ben then decides the real question is CAN pork bung pass as Calamari? There was only one way to know for sure. He had to cook up some bung and eat it. And if the taste was overwhelming and the texture was all wrong, well, then he’d have his answer.
“And at this point, I’ll be frank,” Ben says, “I started to root for the bung. I realized that this is not a story about fraud. It’s not a bait and switch story. It’s a story about possibility. It’s classic rags to riches. It’s about whether a cut of meat– perhaps the lowliest, most malignable cut of meat in America– might somehow, in at least one place on the planet, be dipped in the redemptive oils of the great culinary equalizer that is the deep fryer. And it might emerge transformed, no longer an outcast, but instead hair combed, clean shaven, in a suit and tie. It might walk reborn onto a table. Through sheer force of resemblance, it might be loved. Its history, years of drudgery and hardship, doing the body’s least glamorous job, all washed away.”
Ben tells such a great story, that I don’t want to ruin it by telling you the ending. So here’s the link to Episode 484. Scroll down the page to Act One “Dead Ringer” and click on the arrow pointing to the right to play this part of the podcast.
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P.S. Want to know the answer? Send me an email and I’ll tell you the outcome. 🙂