Monday, September 25, 2006

The Gross Post: Lamb Heads. And Leeches, Don't Forget the Leeches.

I love lambs! Lambs are so cute!

Fluffy, sweet natured, frisky and innocent. I wish I had a whole lot of baby lambs all lined up in a row...
And their heads taste so good, too! Crack their little skulls, scoop out those tasty brains! Roast those babies up! Given that thousands of lambs are slaughtered every morning to feed Istanbul's lamb-hungry masses, it is no wonder that there are quite a few leftover parts after the legs and ribs are spoken for. One of the most sought after tidbits is the head. You might not think of lamb head as a fast food, but there are some people - many of them in Anatolia - who might dispute this with you. This is the lamb head man at the end of our street in Karaköy. He did a booming business with the banking crowd at lunchtime. Strip the lamb meat from the heads, mix it with chopped onion, parsley and pepper, chop in some hard boiled eggs (I never quite understood that part) and drop it into a french loaf. Presto! The ultimate businessman's lunch. Of course, if you prefer a sit down meal you can always drop by your neighborhood tandir joint. Roast lamb heads served with freeshly baked Anatolian pide breads. Now that I have you attention and we have broken through the "ewww... gross!" barrier for the day, I feel it is the time to introduce one of the more interesting aspects of Istanbul's medical economy, and one which has its origin in Ottoman times. The leech sellers at the pet market in Eminönu. What? Leeches? Yes, leeches. Leeches are a part of traditional medicine all over the world, and scientists (you know... scientists...) now say that leeches actually do have a very beneficient effect when they suck your blood. Apparently, leech saliva contains a peptide called hirudin, which is a highly effective anticoagulant, and for this reason leeches have come back into clinical practice in the last 25 years. In the Istanbul market they are advertised for their effectiveness in treating eczema and rheumatism. Let's get a closer look, then, at Our NewFriend, The Leech.

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