I just received Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating in the mail last night and it got me all excited. Unfortunately, not many share the same excitement as I do about consuming offal, or as some call it the Nasty Bits. Making our dulled out taste buds appreciate something as rich in flavor as offal requires a certain level of skill, or at least a good understanding of the ingredient.
I didn’t like offal (in the form of pig’s liver) when I was first introduced to it as a child. It tasted pasty and smelled nasty, like really old over-boiled eggs. My offal ‘ahuh’ moment didn’t come till a few years later. Still a kid, I had some pig’s intestine (somewhat similar to chitlins) in a bowl of very familiar Chinese pork soup otherwise known as bak kut teh. It didn’t taste the slightest bit porky. It was tender, creamy and delicious. My world was changed.
The following is an edit of an earlier post I wrote when I went vegan for a month. It kind of explains my “philosophy” and approach to meat.
I honestly have no ethical qualms consuming animals and their products. OK, I might draw an arbitrary line on certain critters like domestic dogs and cats (despite my Asian jokes) but not so much outside of that.
What I am not fine with is not respecting and appreciating where our food really comes from. While we distance ourselves from this reality by thinking that our meats come from plastic wrapped packages of steak and filets, the truth is that meat came from a once living and breathing creature. It is a precious resource.
What I do hate though is that animals are raised in terrible conditions in factory farms. Cruelty issues aside, it’s simply unsanitary and not the best and most efficient means of producing food. I’ll leave the details and the moral dilemmas of factory farming practices to documentaries and books like “Food Inc.”, “Fresh” and “In Defense of Food”, or any other book by Pollan and Schlosser for that matter. But a main message is that what you reap what you sow; good meat comes for well taken care of animals.
Of course, one can go too far with this idea. Animals are being bred for FOOD. Being a localvore for coolness sake is lame. Just like these clowns:
On the flip side, this more macabre but cool (there is some blood in this, not that there’s anything wrong with that):
I’m a big fan of nose to tail and using as much of an animal as possible. Personally, I enjoy eating offal (liver, heart, tongue etc.). While I don’t expect everyone to appreciate the taste of it, I do get ticked off when people are opposed to the idea of it. I was once relating to a friend about eating lamb testicles and he responded by asking “How would you feel if somebody ate yours.” Well, not too happy, but I wouldn’t appreciate it if somebody made a steak out of my back either.
I am guessing this response is because consuming a part of an animal that we can relate to hits too close to home. I think there is nothing wrong with that. It simply reminds us to respect the source of our food.