The server cupped his hand to the side of his mouth and whispered, "Those, um, are oysters from the mountains, you know."
I nodded, slightly gravely, and thanked him for his thoughtful euphemism. I know full well what Rocky Mountain oysters are, and seeing as I was encountering them on a menu in Terminal C of the Denver International Airport, they seemed a somewhat safer bet than their maritime counterparts.
So I went ahead and ordered the deep-fried bull balls.
I took a few slugs of my Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (it seemed semantically correct, and really - no one's ever thought to counsel me on what wine pairs well with animal junk) and re-read the menu description as I waited for my meal to arrive.
"This 'private' selection of bull fries are served crispy and accompanied by cocktail sauce."
Heh. Heheheheh, Heh. "Private." I swear I have the sense of humor of a twelve year old boy sometimes, but the person who wrote that menu knows I'm hardly alone in that. I'm also not the only flyer with a penchant for savoring local delicacies. When I'd asked my server, Alan, if most people "got it," he'd told me that mine was perhaps his third or fourth order of the day.
I clarified, did most people get that he was trying, in as PG a fashion as possible, to make sure they were entirely clear that they were about to consume castration cast-offs? He thought for a second, then grimaced. No, they didn't. And he found that most with his Asian customers who'd seemed grateful to find something that appeared to be seafood on a meat and dairy-centric menu. Euphemisms only translate so far and inevitably, once in a while, there's a diner left poking at the spongy center of the golden-breaded disc on their plate and wondering what in the name of all that is holy has gone amiss with the local marine life.
Bull fries are hardly isolated to this single restaurant in the Denver airport. While they're not exactly popping up on every last menu across the West, devotees of the deep-fried danglers converge at gatherings like Montana's Testy Festy and the Oakdale, California Cowboy Museum's annual Testicle Festival to indulge in this idiosyncratic dish. Though I can't claim to be a connoisseur, this was not my virgin venture, either. Holeman and Finch Public House in Atlanta, Georgia, renowned for its soul-satisfying cheeseburger, serves a lightly crisped and tremendously creamy rendition that I've been known to snack on in the wee, small hours.
When I'm in Cincinnati, I feast upon chili-slathered spaghetti. In Vermont, I'm mainlining grade-A dark syrup. In Colorado, it's bull bobs down the hatch.
My dinner arrived - a half-dozen breaded, flat-pounded and fried discs atop a dainty salad of spring greens and a plastic ramekin of horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce. The flimsy plastic knife I'd been issued bowed against the springy center of the first one, so I grasped it daintily between my thumb and forefinger and took a cautious nibble.
For all the giggles, jokes, blushes and caution, they could have been deep-fried and delicious, well, anything. I'm not exactly sure what I'd been expecting - a spongy, funky sphere that would induce sympathetic cringes from nearby male diners, perhaps. But had I been told I was nibbling on veal, alligator, or some especially sturdy seitan, I wouldn't have cocked an eyebrow. They were tasty testes, to be sure, but a bit of a culinary letdown in the end.
Really, though - wouldn't I have been nuts not to try?