Monday, 2 March 2009

'Nose to Tail' Tuesday: A Prologue and a Competition

‘Nose to tail’ shouldn’t be a food philosophy. It shouldn’t be a big deal. But it is.

For thousands of years we’ve been raising or hunting animals for meat and then using as much of them as possible for sustenance.

Only in the last 50 years, when we have witnessed the industrialisation of meat production, have consumers been able to dispense with the cuts that needed nurturing or slow cooking.

We’ve gradually been weaned onto meat that is effortless: Easy to cook, easy to eat. Any fool with a frying pan can cook a chicken breast or a fillet of beef or a loin of pork.

Offal and the ‘awkward’ cuts have been relegated to the back seats and in most cases, the bin where they lie ignored and forgotten in favour of the pieces that are easier, more convenient.

This is wrong. It makes no sense, neither economically nor philosophically.

Even the most financially illiterate individual can see the stupidity in raising an animal for the prime cuts only. But this is how things have turned out, especially in Britain and America where convenience has become the high priestess to which we must pray.

Time to re-dress the balance.

Of course, I’m not proclaiming to be some sort of pioneer in this field. Chefs like Fergus Henderson, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anthony Bourdain blazed this same trail quite some time ago. Many other professional chefs have followed their lead or ploughed similar furrows.

But I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a home cook who loves good food, and I think you are too. Let's do this.

Let's fasten our seatbelts and drive full speed down our own 'nose to tail' road. Tasty treats, delicious recipes and sumptuous surprises are certain to follow in our wake.

This isn’t extreme eating of any sort. For that go and see Andrew Zimmern. This is about recapturing the true spirit of being an omnivore, about respecting the animals we slaughter and creating delicious meals out of the cuts that have, over the last few decades, become unusual.

They aren’t inherently strange or nasty or disgusting. Very few things are. But we’ve lost something vital recently. Hopefully the shifting economic climate, and the relative cost of these cuts, might make one or two more people embrace this holistic approach.

Please feel free to contact me with ideas. I’m open to many things.

As a little amuse bouche tomorrow’s inaugural dish will be something delicious done with pig’s cheeks.

In the mean time, consider this a call to arms for like-minded individuals to get on board and, in the words of Fergus Henderson, ‘go beyond the fillet.’

Fancy joining me? Pledge your support below or submit a suggestion (see where it says ‘leave a comment’? Click that) and you could win a copy of ‘Nose to Tail Eating’, the cookbook of restaurant St. John.

Thank you.

Keep up to date with the project at Twitter


Anonymous said...

YES. this is just perfect. Lets not make a big deal out of something that should be happening naturally. In my mind "peasant" food is where the taste, and nutrition is. Glad to see you doing this, and not making a big deal of it either. You have some fun cooking times ahead of you!!

QGIRL said...

Being part Asian, I grew up eating all parts of the animal. My parents would buy a half a cow (literally) from the butcher and have him butcher it up for them in steaks, ground meats, feet, ears, offal - everything was used.
I am ashamed to say that I don't eat that way now - except for the occasional liver pate or tripe soup. Pork cheek is one of the tenderest cuts.
I look forward to your recipe ideas and thoughts on this subject. Although, I do know that it will be a hard sell on my American hubby. He almost vomitted when my mother told him she was serving tongue salad once. I married him anyway!

Anonymous said...

me me me! I think you should try out pigs' tails, I'm intrigued to see what you could do with them. I heard Sue (from Mel and Sue and the SuperSize Me documentaries with Giles Coren) describe them as the most disgusting thing you could ever eat.

Also pigs' ears. I heard these are meant to be tasty, but in my experience they've been a bit disappointing...

Just Cook It said...

Matt - Thanks for the comments. I think the whole ethos behind this is trying to prove that it isn't a big deal - it's just food that got forgotten along the way.

QGIRL - You were right, pork cheek is so tender. And it would be great if more people bought meat the way your parents did both in economical terms and teaching people about where meat comes from. I actually laughed when I read that about your hubby, very funny.

Salty - Argh, you've pre-empted me. I think tails are on the menu for next week. Ears I've had too but you're right, they were a little disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Well I am totally on board with the nose to tail eating. I loved St. John and I discovered the joys of pork trotters recently - I used them in a terrine as they are a natural source of gelatine - brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing some of these recipes. Might even venture out to the local butcher for some of the more obscure cuts.

Carolina deWitte said...

I had an amazing recipe for pig's ears at one time, they were delicious. Now I can't find the recipe, though I will continue to look. I THINK it was in one of my Time/Life series, which I lost in a fire quite a few years back. I will go see if the local library has any copies of these books, and if I locate it I will copy the recipe. I will know immediately if it is the right one. All I really remember was that the ears were coated with mustard before being dredged in egg/crumb mixture and fried.

I love this idea, BTW. I just found your blog today, and am looking forward to reading much more.

Just Cook It said...

Helen - yes, trotters are amazing. So full of goodness and great for stocks.

rnnbrwn - thank you. Hopefully you'll find some inspiration here.

Carolina - Thank you very much for the kind words. I've actually cooked pig's ears and the recipe sounds similar. It is on the blog somewhere - I'll send you the link.

Thistlemoon said...

I am totally in agreement here, and I need some inspiration to start cooking more this way! So I would love to get some inspiration from this cookbook! :)

toontz said...

My parents both came from large families and ate that way regularly. My father was a hunter, too. So we had our share of "weird" meat growing up. Like anything, some you love, some you dislike. After all I don't like all candy!

Gfron1 said...

i've just recently taken up the unusual cuts and have been loving them. I started with kidney suet and its gone from there. I'm looking forward to following your blog.

Just Cook It said...

Jenn - Thank you! Hope you feel inspired

Toontz - I agree, it's amazing how early our views of foods are formed, isn't it?

Thanks Gfron1, glad you like it.

Anonymous said...

Amen to this - absolutely love it. I grew up on the same fare my father's family did, and they raised their own beef and pork. Now I work for a university animal science department. We have our own full-scale meat lab and retail store, with some of the best and brightest of everything. It's amazing the things that people won't buy.

Looking forward to reading more about N3T!


jennie said...

great idea...
i have a story that might make you smile:

when I was young my mom started a one room Alternative high school ( Steiner) in our backyard in a converted garage, it was in a rural area and the students were studying Physiology, Instead of getting hearts in Formaldehyde my mother just asked the butcher down the road if he could spare any parts…
This resulted in a bunch of teenagers stretching out animal intestines around the house and sawing open sheep’s heads The butcher though it was a gas and was always calling up my mother asking her if she would like anything ( three years later we still had a pair of emu legs in our freezer).
One afternoon teacher’s for the school came to the staff meeting and were met with an array of daring culinary delights offered up by the students. After indulging they were informed that they had just eaten brain, heart and kidney. My mother and the students had spent the afternoon cooking from an acient pioneer cookbook she had found….