Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cultural identity, courtesy of Rocky Mountain Oysters

A guy who covers agriculture in the West who’s never put a skinned, sliced, battered, deep-fried bull testicle into a cup of cocktail sauce and then into his mouth? I couldn’t let it stand. They’re known by many names: lamb fries, bull fries, Montana tenders, huevos de toro, cowboy caviar. In my corner of Colorado, they’re Rocky Mountain oysters and I somehow coaxed myself into thinking I needed to try them to be more a part of the place I live, to be a true blue Coloradan. Bruce’s Bar is the place to try Rocky Mountain Oysters; a place that’s been built on the novelty of eating testicles since 1957. An institution in the small town of Severance, Colorado, Bruce’s has enough sway in town to merit inclusion on its welcome sign, which reads: “The Town Of Severance: Where The Geese Fly And The Bulls Cry.” The bar’s exterior is plastered in cartoon bulls, some with their legs crossed. Another is popping a wheelie on a motorcycle, holding a sign that says: “Still Got Mine.” Few other places revere the Rocky Mountain oyster like Severance, save for towns like Deerfield, Michigan; Olean, Missouri; Tiro, Ohio; Huntley, Illinois; or Clinton, Montana, which throw annual testicle festivals. Each year Bruce’s acts as a starting point for a “Nut Run,” a motorcycle rally with the tagline: “No Bull, Just Balls,” where visitors wolf down upwards of 1,000 pounds of Rocky Mountain oysters in one afternoon. And of course there’s the name of the town: Severance. It literally means, “the state of being separated or cut off.”  That’s why I decided to consult an expert, someone to bring me back to reality, and explain that yes, these are just testicles, and any meaning you load them with is purely your own. I found that perspective in Bruce’s no-nonsense kitchen manager Dennis Guffy. He’s been at Bruce’s for more than 40 years. Guffy has prepared tons -- actual tons -- of oysters in his career. “I’ve worked with these things for 40 years and I still like them,” Guffy says while skinning a bull testicle the size of large avocado. “For as many as I’ve handled and cooked, I still like them. I think they’re awesome.”  After slicing, dicing, breading, and deep-frying Guffy brings out the basket with a side of cocktail sauce. It’s a sampler: bison, lamb and beef oysters. I go with the more exotic bison oyster as my first taste...more

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