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A cow has four stomachs. The stomach walls of the first three are commonly sold as "tripe" and the fourth less commonly so. Some Americans hold tripe to be disgusting, but there are many famous recipes for it and its popularity is world-wide.
The most famous American tripe dish is Philadelphia Pepper Pot, said to have saved the American Revolution when Washington's army was starving at Valley Forge. In keeping with other famous tripe soups and stews, it should be made with a calf's foot. Mexican Menudo is perhaps the tripe dish most familiar to Americans and is famed as a hangover cure (tripe and calf foot have this reputation in a number of countries).
More on Beef Innards.
Buying: Tripe tends to be rather rare in chain supermarkets, but is very common in ethnic markets serving Asian, European, Mexican, South American, and Near and Middle Eastern communities. A specialty meat market should also be able to supply it.
Unlike the tripe described in older cookbooks, that sold in North Amrerica today is thoroughly cleaned, parboiled and bleached, so it's pretty much ready to go. As purchased it should have almost no odor.
Buy the type of tripe appropriate to your recipe. Generally rustic recipes are happy with Blanket Tripe, the more refined prefer Honeycomb Tripe. Book tripe is not so commonly used but has a unique texture and mingles well with sauces.
A cow has four stomachs, each providing a distinct form of tripe:
Role Tripe is an 18th century term no longer used and nobody seems to know exactly what kind of tripe it designated.
Green Tripe is tripe fresh from the cow and may be olive green, gray or brown. In this condition it's ugly, crusty, smelly and unappetizing, though dogs like this form best. Cleaning green tripe is a real hassle and is described cookbooks from early times. The tripe sold in North American markets has already been thoroughly cleaned so you don't have to do that, unless you're disassembling your own cow.
Yield: You will end up with less than half the weight you started with, as little as a third for honeycomb tripe. Recipes should give the starting weight unless explicitly stated otherwise. Unfortunately many cookbook writers are very sloppy about things like this - they presume the whole world does everything the exact same way they do (British cookbooks are particularly bad this way). If there are no instructions to cook the tripe in the recipe, its a good bet the weight is for already cooked tripe.
I've read complaints about the odor of cooking tripe on Internet discussion boards. I don't know where they got their tripe, but that we have in Southern California has almost no odor as purchased and only a light and not unpleasant odor when cooking.