Eating animal testicles is not as unusual as you might think. In some ancient cultures, it was believed that eating them could increase sexual vigor. And, depending on where you live in the U.S. today, you might not think twice about popping an animal testicle in your mouth.
Anyone who has spent some time in Colorado or certain other western states has probably heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters.
For the uninitiated, that's the name typically given to bull testicles that have been thinly sliced, breaded and fried. They're also known as Barnyard Jewels, Montana Tendergroin and Cowboy Caviar. They're so popular in Colorado, in fact, that I'm told you can even buy them at Mile High Stadium.
For our purposes, the trick was finding animal testicles so unappetizing that even a Colorado native might think twice about chomping down on the suckers. My first stop was checking in with Rod A. Lincoln who organizes the annual Testicle Festival at the Rock Creek Lodge in Clinton, Montana (yep, that's the real name of the town).
Rod explained to me the rich history of bull testicles. Each spring, cowboys round up and castrate their beef cattle to help fatten them up and tenderize their beef. It's part of the cowboy ethic of not wasting any part of the animal, he said. Rod estimates he has served up tons of Rocky Mountain oysters over the years at the annual festival, a 5-day event complete with dancing, a motorcycle parade and a wet T-shirt contest.
Unfortunately, the type of testicles Rod served sounded a bit too tasty. So I decided to call a mail order company that specialized in exotic meats and order some animal testicles of our own. He told me he could send me some buffalo testicles, each about the size of a baseball, three to a pack (seemed like an odd number to us, too). I asked him what would happen if we boiled them. Well, they would probably expand, he said. I placed a rush order.
The buffalo testicles arrived at our office in a box with some dry ice. They were shrink-wrapped and looked kind of like chicken breasts. We thawed them, boiled them, and found a willing participant in the office to test one. Well, if the truth were told, I found the tester with the help of a $20 bill from my wallet. The testicles had been boiled about 10 minutes and shrank to the size of eggs by the time they came out of the pot. Our tester didn't care for it; especially the spongy texture, but he did manage to swallow it down.
I still couldn't help wondering if there were some way to make eating a buffalo testicle more challenging. I called a supplier in South Dakota that had just the thing; buffalo testicles that were still in their membranes. It was pretty shocking when they arrived in the mail and we saw what they actually looked like. They were like giant horrible Easter eggs, covered in swirly purple and blue veins and shrink-wrapped in blood-filled plastic. Now we knew we were onto something.
We tried boiling one for 10 minutes and were pleased to see that they didn't shrink. But would the contestants be able to break through the membrane and get to the meat inside? Only one way to find out. I chomped down on the freshly boiled jewel. Yeccchh. Milky, warm water squirted out. And, man, was that membrane rubbery. There was no way we could have the contestants eat that membrane in a short period of time.
We decided that each contestant would have to bite into the testicle, peel away the membrane, and eat the boiled, spongy meat inside within four minutes. I honestly thought they'd all do it, especially given the prize money at stake. But they did smell really horrible, kind of like boiled sheep eyes (these are the kinds of things you learn on a job like this).
We ordered plenty of extra testicles. And it's a good thing we did. Some of the testicles had little tears in the membrane and when we went to boil them they popped open in the pot like frozen crescent roll containers. We also needed some extras for display purposes because we realized it would be extra tough for the contestants to eat them once they saw them raw.
The day of the shoot, we had plenty of testicles ready for action. When the contestants first walked in and saw the tray of raw testicles, they made it clear this was not going to be easy for them. Mission accomplished. On to the next stunt.
by RICH BROWN