Sunday, January 23, 2011

Open Your Mind

So you're at the local megamart shopping for your groceries. You look into the meat section and see the pristine looking steaks. They're neatly cut and placed into Styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic.  Do you ever think about where that steak or pork chop came from?
Well, it came from a living being. And that animal gave its life to feed us.  But a lot more comes from a pig or a cow than the tenderloin, loin and other more desirable cuts, and I think it's our responsibility to pay homage to that animal that gave its life to feed us. We shouldn't eat the best and throw away the rest. There are a whole lot more delicious pieces to that beast than the cuts you're used to eating. Aside from cuts like shoulder, belly and head, there's something called offal. That's the guts of the animal. And all of these things, when prepared properly, can be delicious beyond compare.

But do you eat these things? I do, and they're amazing.

Actually I bet a lot of you already do eat these lesser cuts and some of you don't even know it.

Who doesn't like bacon, what about sausage, or osso bucco? These are all lesser cuts that come from an animal. And you know what? They're delicious!

So let's go back in time a bit, to the times of our ancestors.  In those times there was no supermarket, or butcher to visit. Before domesticated animals we ate what we caught and hunting was hard, like really hard. So when an animal was killed in the hunt we ate everything we could and even made valuable items from what we couldn't eat. Clothes, weapons, and even jewelry were made from the remains of the hunt.  So if you're a vegetarian or the vegetarian's hezbollah like cousin, a vegan, did you know that some of the first couture fashion and jewelry came from animals? Anyway, when we killed an animal during the hunt, which at times was a really dangerous operation by the way, we ate every last scrap we could. Liver, kidneys,and  heart were all prized sources of protein and over time people developed really tasty ways to cook these things.

So the next time you sit down to eat your steak, pork chop, or even chicken dinner, think about the other things that came from that animal that had to die to feed us. Think about what happened to the head, the guts, the less savory cuts.  And maybe, next time you go shopping, you'll ask about a cut of meat you might otherwise not choose. Ask the butcher how to cook it. Sure, it might involve some extra effort to cook, and often more time to do so, but in the end I'll bet you're really happy with the results.

If you've made it this far congratulations. In this blog I'll talk about these lesser cuts and guts that I cook and eat. I’ll tell you how to make some amazing food and  I'll also take a look at eating sustainably, locally, and all in all better. I'll try to update this blog a few times per week and hopefully you'll not only enjoy what you read but eat better too.

Bon Appetit!

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more about the taste and novelty of the so-called 'lesser cuts'. My dad started working in the family locker plant (butcher & storage) when he was 14. I grew up with the 'you'll try some of everything once' and it stuck. If it swims, flies, crawls or digs a hole in the ground, I'll eat it!

    My father talked about the 'rib phenomenon'. When he worked butchering hogs, the owners rarely wanted the ribs. The store put them up for sale for 5-cents a pound (1960-ish) and still ate a lot of ribs on the weekends to keep them from going bad - they were considered garbage. Now even the cheapest spares are $2 a pound and slow smoked for half-a-dozen hours make a heavenly feast.

    I look at the other meats in the BBQ contest we attended a few years ago and they're all cheap, tough, fatty - but flavorful and all were under $2 a pound, at that time. I'm having problem finding brisket now for under $4 a pound, now that people realize just how good it is.

    I've also run into the logistics and economics of feeding over 7,000,000,000 people - the vast majority of which simply can't pay $8/pound for chicken. My step-father runs a commercial hog farm in Indiana. They grow, grind & formulate their own feed (soy & corn) but there is no pasturage and while clean & safe, you wouldn't really call it a 'good' life. Small stalls, no freedom/exercise, etc. On the other hand, this is the most cost-effective way to get pork chops & bacon into those styrofoam packages so that the majority of Americans can afford to buy it at the local megamart.

    Population control would be the best solution, but since that ain't gonna happen...

    Great Blog, John!