Talking Veal Brains and Cilantro

I met up with Lori Fredrich, senior writer of OnMilwaukee.com, at the Milwaukee Public Market to talk about important things: Photography, Veil Brains and Cilantro.

Here is the transcript:

· Me: So, I have prepared five questions, starting out — What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

· Lori: The strangest thing I have ever eaten — Oh If I had a little bit of warning I could’ve made this one really, really good. Among the strangest things I have ever eaten, are probably, um, veil brains.

· Me: Veil brains?

· Lori: Veil brains!

· Me: Is that, like, baby cow, right?

· Lori: Baby cow brains. My grandmother had always talked about eating them and they were probably more popular years and years ago, and people would eat, you know, all the animal. Everything from nose to tail and she [Lori’s grandmother] would wax poetic about veil brains and so it was always on my bucket list to eat them. And I would never forget, I ate them at Hinterland Erie St Gastropub down here in the Third Ward, and it was kind of dark in the restaurant — I saw them on the menu and I was like, “Well, my grandmother said these were great”. And the waiter came over and asked me what I was going to order and I said, “Well, I’m contemplating the veil brains”. I was still pretty tentative at that point and he got this look on his face — like, he said, “oh my gosh! you have to! They’re so delicious”. And I completely was like, “okay, I’ll take that” and made the decision split-second and before I knew it, they were out and was tasting them and didn’t have time to think about how weird it was that I was eating the thinking party of a cow ha-ha.

· Me: So how was the taste, generally?

· Lori: Veil brains are kind of, like, — some people describe them as meat butter.

· Me: Meat butter?

· Lori: Meat butter. So, they have this — a little bit of a soft — usually they’re pan-fried or deep-fried and — so they have a texture on the outside from the fryer so they’re a little bit crispy, but they’re really, really creamy on the inside and they taste kind of — if you don’t like animal fat, if you’re the one that takes all of fat off, with your steak the fat off — probably, maybe not for you. The texture is a little bit like that but they’re meaty and they’re delicious and apparently filled with vitamin B.

· Me: Great. My second question is: What inspired you to change career paths and to write about food?

· Lori: So, food and writing were always two things I loved. I didn’t think very hard about putting them together because… I don’t know. You can dream about being a food writer, but I wouldn’t even know how to tell someone — how to make that happen. They’re few and far between. So, I did work that allowed me to keep writing — knowing I knew I wanted to have some writing in my job. I worked at Marquette University for a long time and as an — in marketing communications for their college of education. So, I wrote about education and working at a university is, gosh, it was a great job and I loved it but I had time on my hands. My job was pretty 9 to 5 and occasionally had events on the weekend but in my spare time I was getting into cooking and getting more and more into that. So, I started a blog and started writing about food. I was writing about cool business in Milwaukee and what they were doing. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was knitting together two things that I love.

· Me: So, a culmination of two that arose?

· Lori: Mhmm. And from there I would occasionally have people that would notice and say, “Hey! I love what you’re doing!” and ask if I would be interested in doing stuff for them — which resulted in a gig I did for Milwaukee Magazine in which I did food writing and from their OnMilwaukee saw what I was doing. I freelanced for OnMilwaukee for probably 5 years while I was still working for Marquette. Eventually, they loved the work I was doing and hired me full time.

· Me: That’s fantastic! Have you seen those Tasty videos on Facebook?

· Lori: I love the Tasty videos!

· Me: Yeah, so what you think of the sudden influx of food marketing brands like Tasty, kind of posting videos on Facebook — teaching people how to make these wild and interesting food assortments?

· Lori: I think there is always a double-edged sword. There is so much out there about food and dining, now — and peaks people’s interests and helps them to be more willing to try new foods and get them out of their comfort zones. It also creates situations among chefs and restaurants — like, how do you please people? We still have people who are still into classic foods like meat and potatoes and then you have all these people who are getting into interesting and avant-garde food. It’s tough because you have to meet the needs of your specific client, your audience and the more people know the more you have to up your game. I also think these videos completely change the way you have to work in food journalism. People want to see beautiful pictures and beautiful videos — so I have think about the next cool things to do.

· Me: I like how you mentioned upping you game because it is so relevant today. I have worked as a photographer for 5 years now. I have worked for the Marquette wire and done freelance before and I guess you touched on this already a litte bit but — for my fourth question, for you working on an online publication, what makes a good culinary picture and how does media kind of get involved in all of that?

· Lori: Yeah, someone asked me just a little bit ago how things have changed and you would just sit at your desk and write your articles and conduct your interviews. Now it’s about me sitting down with somebody and conducting the interview but I’m also taking the pictures or I’m shooting video or I’m trying to figure out how to put multi-media into the picture with everything I’m doing. I fortunately still had a little bit of practice with photo-taking. Food stays still, so it’s easier to shoot, but it’s all dependent on part of the lighting. Natural light is the best thing so the closer I can get to a window, you know, without sun directly shining on it — the better. The goal is — you they say it’s all about “FoodPorn” so that food better look delicious.

· Me: One last questions. A little strange but it’s personal to me.

· Lori: Strange is good.

· Me: What are your thoughts on cilantro? Because it’s my favorite thing ever.

· Lori: So, cilantro is so interesting! Apparently, and maybe you know this? But there is a genetic pre-disposition to liking or not liking cilantro — and if you have this — and I’m not a scientist, but apparently if you don’t like it the cilantro will taste like soap. To me, it does not taste like soap. And I love it.

· Me: What’s the best thing to put cilantro on? Or do you think just like a genre? Like Mexican food goes best with it.

· Lori: Cilantro is great, there’s Thai food, red curries, green curries. Cilantro is awesome. It’s delicious.

· Me: That’s all I have. Thank you very much.

· Lori: Thank you!

Here is the audio:

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