1. Archive

At times a story just will not go away

(ran W, S editions)

"It won't matter if I win two Pulitzer Prizes and a Nobel Peace Prize," a former colleague of mine said once, "when I die it will probably say on my tombstone, "The Guy Who Took the Snake Eating-the-Duck picture.' "

And another former reporter, who has presidential aspirations and was working as lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice the last I heard, is still tired of being referred to as "the guy who wrote the Candide lead."

The first, on a routine assignment, had found a guy feeding ducks to his pet boa constrictor on the banks of a lake in St. Petersburg and photographed the process.

The outcry from the offended, including people who didn't like snakes, didn't want to see them eating or thought the practice was unduly cruel to the ducks, was astounding.

The outcry of hoots and hollers of derision for the second unfortunate, who stretched a quote from Voltaire's Candide about things turning out for the best, forever scarred the young reporter. He had used it to cover an instance in which a kid, who had learned the Heimlich maneuver while reading a Reader's Digest story about it as punishment, later used it to save another kid's life. The former reporter now works where he can quote anyone he pleases.

The point here is that some of us in this business suddenly find ourselves living in a movie titled The Story That Wouldn't Die _ and it is usually a horror movie.

For me, it is beginning to appear, it is the Liver Mush Story.

It all started when I wrote an account of a trip to France during which I inadvertently ate horse meat and Wife, for the first time in her relatively culinarily sheltered life, ate tongue.

Throwing in a paragraph or two about an experience with haggis (an esoteric Scottish dish) one chilly night at a New Port Richey pub, I made the now all-too-apparent mistake of picking up a letter from a reader in that fair city that referred to a substance the manufacturers of which actually voluntarily refer to as Liver Mush.

Liver Mush, its devotees swear, is a yummy picture of pork livers, pork broth, pork snouts, cereal, pork spleens, pork, salt, spices and, of course, the all important caramel color.

I was deluged with calls and letters from people from the area of North Carolina where the stuff is sold. Some wanted to know if I knew of a local outlet and some just wanted to wax eloquent reminiscing about the days when they were able to partake regularly of parts of a pig that I believe are best relegated to obscurity.

And so I was surprised to learn this week that Liver Mush is now officially ensconced in the lexicon of substances recognized as edible by Weight Watchers.

Sharon Parker, a Weight Watchers field manager in New Port Richey, it turned out, was in communication with her friend, Marsha Moeller, who has the same job in Asheville, N.C. The question came up of how serious Weight Watcher members should deal with the Liver Mush question whenever it arises at things like cotillions or state dinners.

And so, I am happy to tell you, a 2-ounce serving of Liver Mush has 90 calories and is considered by Weight Watchers to be "optional calories."

The serving size is important, just in case you find yourself at one of those All-You-Can-Eat Liver Mush Buffet places and are tempted to really load up your plate after skipping over the head cheese, calves brains and chitterling bins.

Moeller even shipped her New Port Richey counterpart a pound of the stuff, chilled, by overnight Federal Express, and Parker called me to offer me a chance to taste it for myself.

In 27 years of journalism I have been threatened, shot at and caught in explosions, I have had an ax handle broken over my head, sat on a telephone pole for 300 hours and once sat all the way through a Port Richey City Council meeting without drugs, body armor or earplugs.

But, to quote folk singer Don Grooms, "Everyone draws the line somewhere . . . and liver is where I draw mine."

Jan Glidewell is a columnist for the North Suncoast editions of the Times.