03/15/2011 08:32 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Beef Tongue Is Back

It's tender. It's trendy. It's tongue.

As befits boneless tissue jam-packed with nerves, it's soft. It's also super-rich -- a single serving can have well over 50 grams of fat. That's why our Paleolithic ancestors craved it.

Now it's cool again. It's part of the offal movement that's sweeping the nation. The contestants on an episode of Top Chef last month sang an ode to beef tongue, which is now available as a ringtone.

Sampling tidbits crafted by noted Bay Area chefs last Friday night at the gala grand-opening reception of the three-month Berkeley Wine Festival, I happened upon paper-thin slices of smoked beef tongue prepared by Rick DeBeaord, executive chef of Berkeley's Café Rouge. The café has its own meat market, where DeBeaord and his staff smoke their own meats, cure their own sausages, and sell such offal-escent faves as caul fat, blood sausage, and head cheese.

DeBeaord's beef tongue was sunset pink and meltingly delicate. I ate it without at first realizing what it was. When he told me, I recoiled, remembering the blubbery tongue-and-white-bread sandwiches my mother used to pack in my school lunchbox. Tubules and papillae textured that gray flesh. The kids at school laughed till they cried.

But this --

"I haven't eaten tongue since I was twelve years old," I told DeBeaord.

He smiled. Winked.

"Welcome back."

Also at the reception, and also offalesque, chef de cuisine Alicia Jenish of Berkeley's Revival Bar & Kitchen was serving the cherry-blossom pink, delicately spiced, surprisingly light and ebulliently juicy rabbit sausages whose recipe she developed from a classic chicken-sausage recipe.

"I like eating rabbit," she told me, "so I thought: Why not?"

As for those who might lament the idea of putting bunnies into meat grinders, then boiling and eating the results, Jenish said:

"Don't be scared. And they're not that cute."

Butchery is back. And offal is back on the scene just as a cash-strapped America needs ideas for cheap meals. The stewed gizzards and scrambled brains that helped our forebears survive the Great Depression are getting a new lease on life, not only in the kitchens of the unemployed but even in high-end restaurants. Whatever goes around comes around -- and that counts for tripe.