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Various other glands used as food have also been called 'sweetbreads', including the parotid gland, the sublingual glands, and testicles (cf. Rocky Mountain oyster). The "heart" sweetbreads are more spherical in shape, and surrounded symmetrically by the "throat" sweetbreads, which are more cylindrical in shape.
One common preparation of sweetbreads involves soaking in salt water, then poaching in milk, after which the outer membrane is removed. Once dried and chilled, they are often breaded and fried. They are also used for stuffing or in pâtés. They are grilled in many Latin American cuisines, such as in the Argentine asado, and served in bread in Turkish cuisine.
The word "sweetbread" is first known in the 16th century, but the logic behind the name is unclear. "Sweet" is perhaps used since the thymus is sweet and rich tasting, as opposed to savoury tasting muscle flesh. "Bread" may come from brede 'roasted meat'.
- Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford English Dictionary
- W. A. Newman Dorland, The american illustrated medical dictionary, 1922 full text
- The Medical Age, quoting the British Medical Journal, 11:702, 1893 full text
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989
- "Take Our Word For It" Issue 176, page 2
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989, s.v. 'brede'