I was sitting in my favorite writing spot in the house. The sun was beaming and reflecting in from the water just outside my large living room window. I was writing my menu for an upcoming event and my lovely wife, a board certified doctor and certified southern girl, asked me if I could come up with an alternative name for my corn bread. I thought about if for a moment and then said "ok, what about honey drizzled sweet bread". She looked at me and without hesitation uttered one word..."gross".
I was perplexed. "Gross", I scoffed. She said, "yea...that sounds gross. Sounds like animal entrails". I thought she had NO IDEA what she was talking about but as it turns out, I WAS WRONG! I was soooooo wrong.....
Well, I wasn't completely wrong, but I was definitely unaware of the first and most ubiquitous use of the term sweet bread. There are in fact recipes for bread under the term sweet bread, but those come way far down the page after recipes for veal thymus gland and pancreas sweet bread with steamed carrots and morel mushrooms (recipe link below). I looked it up. I was clearly wrong on the merits but, in the gentle hands of a supremely learned woman and together, we looked up the origins of the word!
I started with this webpage: https://tastecooking.com/why-do-we-call-them-sweetbreads/ . As It turns out the term is a blend of old english word for animal flesh and the perception that the flavor of the thymus(located in the throat) and the pancrea(located near the stomach and liver) possess a rich mineral flavor undertone making them more savory and "sweeter" than other cuts of meat.
From my other inquiries and meanderings online, I noted that the fancier more upscale establishments take the sweet breads from beef, veal, pigs or lamb. I have seen a few posts where offerings such as chitterlings have been referred to as sweet breads HOWEVER, those references do not seem to be the the norm. Really, what I gather from a bit of reading and asking around is that sweet bread can be quite delicious and prepared in elegant ways. There are all sorts of recipes from top rated chefs and restaurants serving all over the world. Below check out the Le Cordon Bleu recipe and a very interesting recipe for Mollejas (beef sweet bread) tacos!
Here is the website for a Le Cordon Bleu Sweet Bread recipe: https://www.cordonbleu.edu/news/recipe-veal-sweetbreads-vegetables-citrus/en
Mollejas Tacos recipe:
This photo below is also pretty helpful and comes from the website: https://discover.grasslandbeef.com/blog/sweetbreads/ . It also has some pretty interesting information on the confusing nature of the argument to define, characterize and name sweet breads. For example, the website says that some French chefs rarely regard the "heart or chest" sweet bread to be legitimate, they only work with the thymus in the throat. However, as anyone familiar with notomy will tell you, the thymus extends from the throat into the chest just near the heart. So, both chest and throat sweet breads are technically the same organ attached by a thin strand of thymus tissue.
Anyway, This was a fun educational experience and in the end, I decided to play it safe and just stick with calling it corn bread...lol.
Thanks for reading!!