Rocky Mountain Oysters - The Old Mill. Cedar City, Utah.

The Old Mill. Cedar City, Utah.

I have this gauzy memory about the first time I heard of Rocky Mountain oysters. I remember thinking they were oysters in the literal sense. I can recall learning of them from one of those lifestyle shows on TV which pre-dated the Travel Channel. I can't name the show, but I can describe the people in the show as being burly, Harley riding types. The people on the show loved to mumble clich├ęs like "it dunn't git any bedder din dis!" before chompin' down on their plate of Rocky Mountain oysters. These same people would then chuckle and sputter some kind of apology to the bull that sacrificed his bullhood for their lunch platter.

About two and a half decades after I saw that show, I found myself on a road trip with my wife Diane and our newborn Chloe. We've been driving a while and were some miles deep into the Mountain Time Zone. I don't know if it was all those scruffy bikers roughriding towards Sturgis or because I could actually see the Rocky Mountains slowly shifting in the distant horizon, but I was seriously hankerin' for a hunk of bull balls. I've never ever had them but I was really craving them. Weird.

Cedar City, Utah was coming fast 'round the bend. I figured this was as good a town as any to find some Mountain Time testicles. And an estabishment called The Old Mill Restaurant seemed as good a spot as any for this regional delicacy. The Old Mill's facade was an unflinching homage to Alpine Villages everywhere. And if my hunch was right, this place would be forever christened Kugel Haus in my heart.

Eureka! Rocky Mountain oysters or RMOs were indeed on the menu. Our perky waitress came to the table with ice water. She cooed to the baby, asked about our trip so far and generally made us feel at home. I then ordered the "oysters" and suddenly the relationship between me and my waitress changed forever. Not once in my entire experience of ordering bizarre or adventurous food, everything from pig uterus to a bowl of live squirming shrimp, have I gotten the kind of reaction that I received from my waitress at The Old Mill. To my question, "So how're the Rocky Mountain oysters?", she answered by showing a painful grimace and letting out an involuntary gag. Talking slowly, she went on to summon a memory - as if supine on an analyst's Upper East Side couch - an incident she endured as a young girl. It was the night her mother made her eat Rocky Mountain oysters for the first time. That hellish meal haunts her to this very day which explains her traumatic response to my inquiry.

Part of me really felt sorry for her. I had a similar experience with my mom but instead of being force fed bull sack it was its brain, whole and in your face. I cried through that entire dinner which must've taken two hours to finish. Yeah, that was my Hanoi Hilton. But then, the other part of me thought, "Hey, I turned out okay. She can too. Get over it, you wimp! Go into the kitchen and get some balls already!"

After a series of unfortunate appetizers, I got my RMOs. They arrived fried in batter on a bed of iceberg lettuce and looked remarkably plain. "Bon appetit," my waitress sarcastically wished me. I studied the "oysters" before eating them. Secretly I was looking for similarities to my own "boys". Mine definitely weren't battered and fried. I also noticed how flat and deflated the RMOs appeared. I wasn't expecting that and was, frankly, a little disappointed. At last I sliced a bit off and dipped it into the accompanying seafood cocktail sauce. A surprisingly mellow flavor was my immediate verdict. It was like a very light flavored liver but not as spongy in texture. In fact the RMO meat was quite firm. I ate most of it but that's just because I hate to waste anything.

Overall it was a letdown. The interesting thing is that in my imagination RMOs were nothing like they were in reality. It was almost the exact opposite. I was pining for round and juicy with funky flavors. Instead I got flat and dry with hints of mild liver. Funny, I guess that's life in a nutshell.


Jeanne said…
When my husband shot his first springbok on a hunting trip while at university, tradition dictated that he should eat the poor thing's testicles (called "Karoo Oysters" in South Africa) that night, pan-fried over an open fire. To this day he regales everyone with this tale. And when people ask him how the "oysters" tasted he always responds: "Nutty". :-)
Eddie Lin said…
"Nutty", eh? I am glad your husband is as punny as I think I am! Thanks for your comments.
Anonymous said…
I just had my first taste of Rocky Mountain Oysters last night at a hotel bar in Colorado. I too was disappointed by their shape and flatness. I guess I thought they'd actually be the balls and such, big ol' juicy things. And they were so deep-fried, it really didn't matter what they were! Coulda been bad chicken, for all I know. (By the same token, maybe all those times one orders chicken fingers and receives over-fried, greasy "mystery meat" ... maybe that mystery meat is RMO). I hear the reason why RMOs are flat is because the kitchen help fillets them first.
Eddie Lin said…
RMOs were definitely a let down for me too. On the other hand, I've had rooster nuts in Shanghai and those were juicy, funky nuggets.
crittercraig said…
Great! That was my experiance all three times I've had Mountain Oysters. First I had them in Parson's Kansas. They were deep fried and looked and tasted like veal cutlet. The second was when I brought 10# of them back with some Coors beer, both unknown in south Jersey where I lived at the time. They were again deep fried and served at a pool party. After the initial oohs and uhs, they all disappeared with compliments to the chef. The third time was in New Orleans at a little greasy resturant where they served Mountain Oyster sandwiches, they were even better in my opinion. Try um, I think you will like them if cooked properly.
Craig W. Carpenter, Sewell, NJ.
Anonymous said…
sheesh. Don't you people know anything. The balls are sliced. Ooooh, ow ow ow. By the way, the best oysters, other than those fried by my brother were served in Severence, Colorado at Bruce's Bar. They had a nut run every year and for about $10 I think all the bikers in the world decended on this little town and ate until they, well, were full of balls.
You really think a ball on a plate is how they would be served? Man.
By the way, the sauce should be ketchup, a little lemon and straight horseradish. Don't over cook the oysters, but oh my, don't undercook them. I like my steaks medium rare, but not the bull fries.
Anshu said…
As of today, I have tried Rocky Mountain Oysters from Alligator to Zebra. Usually I eat raw after I harvest the animal. The best was Lion Testicles. The taste was unique. I offer variety of Testicles on
Anonymous said…
I grew up on a cattle ranch in Western Oklahoma and always looked forward to the spring round up and the Rocky Mountain Oyster that we would have for dinner (now lunch) the next day; my mother always complained about having to prepare and cook them but I loved them. My half-sister told my grandmother that she would never eat mountain oysters; one day for dinner, my grandmother served her some "fried chicken" which my half-sister remarked was the best fried chicken she had ever eaten! My grandmother laughed and said, "honey I'm glad you liked them mountain oysters! I thought you said you wouldn't eat them!"