Tail to Nose Eating

A few months ago I decided to work through every cut of every animal that is bred and killed to adorn our plates for the blog. Hopefully I’ll succeed in this – both having been a vegetarian in my past and hating any kind of food waste have greatly contributed to this bee I have in my bonnet. There are so many different cuts of meat – as in muscle – and offal – as in odd bits – that we should revel in the astounding variety we have, but instead we generally do not; chickens are killed for their breasts, cows are killed for their rumps and fillets, and pigs and sheep for their legs and loins. I wouldn’t feel guilty if I bought a pack of chickens’ livers that came from intensively-reared chickens, but I could never buy chicken breasts from those chickens. There is perhaps an argument that vegetarians and vegans could eat such offcuts, since no chicken has died for its giblets or calf for its sweetbreads.

Things are getting better – people are becoming thrifty and with all this Horsemeat Scandal of the past few months, they have become much more interested in meat. Cheaper cuts are being tried, and everyone is realising that the whole animal is delicious. My local butcher has trays of hearts, sweetbreads, pigs’ tails and allsorts, which I am sure were not so easily available a just couple of years ago. I wonder if we’ll ever get back to the stage where there are trays of calves’ and lambs’ brains in the butcher’s shop window. I doubt that, but hopefully it will be possible to order them at least. I haven’t tried all of the cuts myself – tripe and chitterlings leave a gap in my own meat cookery knowledge.

So I think things are looking good – the more offcuts and offal we eat, the fewer animals are reared to feed us. This in turn makes meat cheaper, and animal husbandry kinder and less intensive which can’t be bad.

fergus henderson

I have to mention Mr Fergus Henderson here of course – he is the owner of St. John restaurant in London who coined the term Nose to Tail Eating and really brought the eating of offal right into the foreground of Britain’s food culture today. Of course many recoiled in horror, but then it turned out that all this food was delicious. All’s well that ends well. I had the idea of using all the cuts when I made oxtail soup a few months ago, and so I dubbed the series ‘Tail to Nose Eating’. I am sure Mr Henderson won’t mind.

The other person to name here is Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall whose experiment in self-sufficiency has created the behemoth that is River Cottage. His astoundingly comprehensive River Cottage Meat Book is simply excellent (as are the other ‘handbooks’ he and his team have produced) and it cannot be bettered. His television programmes are great too as they show the process of growing, eating and killing animals when done on a small scale and how this compares to the farms that supply to our supermarkets. HFW also shows us all how to cook offal and other underused cuts and we get to see people eating the food and not throwing up, but licking their lips and having second portions.

meat book

I have already given several recipes that could be counted as Tail to Nose Eating; as already mentioned, there’s the oxtail soup, but also potted chicken livers, braised lamb shanks and duck stock. I have a couple saved up that will be appearing on the blog soon, should I pull my finger out and get them written…

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8 Comments

Filed under Britain, cooking, food, General, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Tail to Nose Eating

  1. Kathryn Marsh

    When we lived in Glasgow many years ago I was told of a shop near Barrowland that specialised in cow’s udder – alas I never managed to track it down. I look forward to your explorations of the more unusual and interesting bits. Despite the advocacy of offal and cheap cuts by many top chefs it is still hard to find them in either the butcher’s shop or the restaurant menu. Though belly pork and lamb shanks have now been so thoroughly discovered that they are, alas, no longer cheap

    • It is a double-edged sword isn’t it? Some offal is expensive simply because noone wants it and the innards are thrown away at the slaughterhouse.

      I’d rather have slightly over-priced cuts than have them wasted, but it is frustrating when they are not cheap. There are still plenty of cheap things though like breast of lamb, kidneys, liver (my personal favourite) and oxtail.

      I wonder how much lambs’ or calves’ brain would even cost nowadays? I fortune I expect

      • Kathryn Marsh

        Yes, probably – they are, after all, delicious. How lucky I am to be old enough not to have known the danger when I ate them – and to have survived the experience (as most did). I wish I knew how chefs get their hands on sweetbreads since I can’t and they are something else I loved when I was growing up. These day I don’t eat chitterlings even when I can find them simply because I love them, don’t know when to stop, and my waistline has enough problems already. When you get around to tripe experiments do try and get hold of the different types from the different stomachs – they are so very different in taste and texture. I’m looking forward with great pleasure to this new series

      • Ah! The a whole world of tripe awaits.

        My butchers sells lambs’ sweetbreads, albeit sporadically. I love them too. In fact my next post on here will be on them. I’ll try to get tit written in next two or three days….

  2. Pingback: Sweetbreads | British Food: A History

  3. Pingback: Have a Heart? | British Food: A History

  4. I would love to try some food off im a celebrity get me out of here

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