Smile Politely

A festival of testicles

I finally put balls in my mouth this past Friday. What type of balls? I know most of the readers who have followed my writing probably wish I was tea bagged by David Hasselhoff, but the balls that I popped in my mouth were swine testicles. Yes, for the first time in my life I voluntarily ate pig balls. To tell you the truth, they weren’t that bad.

I would have never thought about going to a testicle festival, but I knew they were pretty popular. I was invited to one this summer, in New Berlin, Ill., but I got a little too intoxicated the night before, so I passed on the opportunity. However, recently my friend’s dad invited me to come to Gifford, Ill., to try eating some pig nuts. I didn’t know how I could turn him down; after all, Tad did tell me that there would be plenty of beer and even a gun raffle or two. Without hesitating, I told him I would be there.

Before Friday, I had never seen deep fried testicles. I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought for sure that they would be veiny, hairy and full of juice. I also expected them to somewhat explode in my mouth, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Entering Gifford, I could tell that I was a little out of my comfort zone. I come from a pastoral area of Illinois, but Gifford makes my hometown look like a metropolis. As I drove through the cramped, downtown area, all I could see were hundreds of full size trucks. My friend Elisabeth and I both shared an apprehensive look or two as we tried to find the hall with the balls. It was easy to see where we needed to go, because there was a line of men dressed in camouflage entering the German Fall Festival Building. We went through the downtown area (which took a matter of three seconds) and found our friend Amanda’s house. After a quick discussion with her family, we drove back to find parking.

My friend pointed out that there was a parking spot right in front of the building. I reluctantly wedged my Hyundai Tucson in between a Chevy Silverado and a Crown Vic. I think I had the only foreign made vehicle in the town. We waited for the rest of the group to find parking, because my friend and I sure as hell weren’t going to enter the building unaccompanied by a local Giffordian. When the rest of the group walked up, we all decided to let Amanda’s dad lead the way in.

Upon entering the hall, I could smell the heavy stench of grease from the deep fryer. Amanda must have forgotten to tell me that I needed to wear camouflage to get in. I still had on my business casual work clothes, so I was quite overdressed for the occasion. There were long tables full of men, women and children, most of whom were either wearing Carhartt or Real Tree clothing. There were two men checking people in at the price of $10 per head. Amanda’s dad told the gentlemen that only three of us would be eating. They let two of our party in for free without any hassle.

As we made our way through the crowd, I could feel hundreds of eyes carefully observing us. I decided that I had to get a drink to get through this event, so I went to the bar and got a beer for me and Amanda’s boyfriend, Andrew. We found a round table towards the back of the building. Tad instructed us to set our drinks down and get in line. We made our way back through the thick of the crowd. There were a couple of tables set up to raffle off clothing and a few guns. They were having drawings throughout the evening. Had I wanted to participate, I would have had the chance to win an ATV, $500 cash, a .30-06 rifle, a shotgun, and a few handguns.

A guy like me doesn’t need a gun around my house, so I chose to keep my money in my wallet. The line moved quickly. We grabbed a few Styrofoam plates and started loading up on food. The deep friend testicles weren’t really round at all. They looked like small pieces of deep fried chicken. The kind gentlemen serving the food loaded Tad’s plate with enough pieces of fried balls to make your heart skip a few beats. I kindly asked the gentlemen for only a few pieces, so he gave me about ten. I thanked him and moved on to grab a few pieces of tenderloin and few tongs full of fresh French fries. I squirted a big glob of Heinz ketchup near my fries before sitting down to dig in.

Amanda already had her camera out as I sat down. Before she could even turn her camera on, I popped one of the pieces of pig balls in my mouth and started to chew. I expected them to be acrid and tough, but they weren’t that unpleasant. The pieces of testicle were sliced pretty thin, pounded, breaded and then fried. They didn’t pack much flavor and the meat was actually fairly tender. Everyone at the table seemed to be expecting me to instantly hurl, except for Tad, who was devouring piece after piece like he was on a mission. He was way too focused to mind my reaction.

Both Andrew and Amanda were surprised to hear me say that they were actually pretty good. They shot me looks of disbelief, but I kept on eating to prove my point. They really just tasted like pieces of deep fried pork tenderloin. I probably could have had more of them, but my stomach can only stand so much fried food. I powered my way through the balls and tried finishing off the rest of my plate. Elisabeth and I liked the fries the most, but even she ate a few testicles and agreed that they weren’t too bad. Tad looked like he was in heaven. He went up for two more plates before retiring for the evening. I was absolutely amazed at his fervor to eat as many pig balls as possible.

After the meal, I made another uncomfortable trip through the crowd to grab another beer. The raffles had begun, so the hall was starting to get pretty packed. As they read off winning card and ticket numbers, I expected to hear more hooting and hollering, but everyone seemed to be reticent to display enthusiasm. Even when the $500 winner was announced, not a sound was made. The only reaction we really heard was a few boos when a wealthy guy one won the ATV and a table full of guys near us remarked, “We got beer money tonight, boys,” when one of their friends one won $20. I surmised that they were going to buy a 30-pack of Busch, but he just put the twenty in his wallet and left the empty envelope on the table.

Amanda and Andrew had to drive to Michigan that night, so we left before there was time to get good and drunk. I wasn’t too upset about leaving, because the ratio at the hall sucked anyway, and there wasn’t any entertainment other than the raffle. Once Elisabeth and I got in the car, we felt a little relieved. The people at the festival were very cordial, but it was a little awkward for us, because we definitely looked like fish out of water. Just as I was about to pull out, Tad scared the shit out of us by slapping the passenger side window with his hand. After a good laugh, we thanked Tad for his hospitality and then watched him take a few puffs off a small cigarillo as he made his way back home.

I was pretty relieved to get back to Urbana, but I was grateful for the experience that I just had. My gratitude quickly ran out once I got home, because I instantly had to make a trip to the bathroom. I don’t know if I will ever eat pig testicles again, but I doubt I will go out of my way to find them. I do know that Gifford will have another festival in the spring, so I will consider going when the time comes. Otherwise, Tad did tell me that Elliott, Ill. (population 341) has testicle festivals once a month. He doesn’t recommend the Elliott balls, because he said they overcooked them, but he said that Rantoul or Paxton has a few festivals throughout the year. He assured me that he would let me know when he goes to the next one, so I’ll try to update the editors of Smile Politely when I hear of one, so the staff and readers can put some nuts in their mouths.

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