When I came to Cincinnati, I was urged to sample its many treasures. Big-league baseball. Downtown shopping. Chili with mysterious properties. Ice cream with chocolate chips the size of manhole covers.
And there was something else, something ominous, something called goetta. It was pronounced GET-a, and everybody but me was having it for breakfast. And liking it.
Not wishing to appear to be a carpetbagger or tourist, I did not ask, but I had dark suspicions that it might be a German word for headcheese. The dictionary said nothing about goetta but confirmed my worst fears about headcheese. Which is that it has nothing to do with cheese and everything to do with heads.
Just showing off
''Headcheese is made from edible parts of the head, feet and sometimes the tongue and heart, especially of a pig.'' Call me provincial, but I don't think the head and feet of pigs have any ''edible parts.'' I was relieved the dictionary didn't say anything like ''See goetta.''
Really, the more you hear it, the more attractive it sounds. Goetta with eggs. Goetta on crackers. But, then again, nothing sounds more innocent than ''sweetbreads,'' which are offered at fancy restaurants such as the Maisonette to prove that their chef can make anything taste wonderful. Even the pancreas of a calf.
Maybe, I thought, goetta is a Cincinnati version of haggis, a vile Scottish dish which nobody eats unless they're trying to show off. (See sweetbreads.) Haggis is made from throwaway parts of sheep, including the lungs. Then, if that isn't bad enough, they boil the whole mess in the stomach of the animal.
This has nothing to do with goetta, I was told.
The local goetta giant is Glier's Meats in Covington. It supplies about 30,000 pounds of goetta a month to local Kroger, Thriftway and IGA groceries, not to mention restaurants, such as Perkins.
I am thrilled to pass along further word that goetta is nothing more sinister than pork and oats, stewed, then cooled into loaves for slicing, frying or baking.
Isn't that just like us? Efficient. Conflicted. We combine the red meat with its antidote.
Until this week, Glier's Good Goetta could be found from Hamilton to the north, south to Dry Ridge. This is not counting special orders, which have been shipped as far away as Hawaii.
The traveling show
And now Don Frodge, who heads up the company's sales force, is taking goetta on the road. To Louisville. It's one thing, Don, to peddle this stuff around here to people who trust you. Or to Hawaiians who have been known to eat poi, an indigenous version of library paste served mostly to tourists. This could be tricky.
He says he has done seven demonstrations in Louisville stores. Shoppers like it and are buying it, he says, adding ''it's 50 percent leaner than regular pork sausage and kids love it. I'm surprised it's not served in more schools.''
Maybe if they get a product endorsement from the Spice Girls.
President Dan Glier, son of the company's founder, says he plans to take goetta to Lexington by the end of the year and soon after to Columbus grocery stores. Glier's goetta now can be found in more than 20 Louisville Kroger stores.
A friend of mine, who does not eat red meat, pronounces goetta ''disgusting.'' I think she's wrong. It tastes good, sounds fascinatingly foreign and won't kill you as fast as sausage. I hope Glier's succeeds. They seem like very nice people, plus it will be handy if we develop a craving when we're out of town.
Exporting goetta could be good for our image. It would be nice to be known for more than Mapplethorpe, olestra, the meter-feeding granny and the world's largest chicken dance. Maybe it will even make up for supplying the country with truly unsavory products, such as Jerry Springer.
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.