Nose-to-Tail: A Food Series
I don’t mean it in the weird, horror-movie kind of way, but more in the “Okay, I get why it’s sometimes considered a delicacy” kind of way. Maybe I’ll get past being grossed out by it. Then again, maybe not.
I started this journey (which, so far, is a journey of only two steps) with a desire to understand our cultural history of culinary resourcefulness, juxtaposed with our present, seemingly more wasteful habits. Even now, as we proclaim interest in “nose-to-tail” cuisine, in a day when pig snout is not an unusual restaurant find, we thumb our own noses at what we refer to as “leftovers.” This isn’t because we intend to be wasteful. This is America. We just are who we are, and we like what we like.
My purpose, then, is to explore our history and inclinations, and arrive at a place of understanding. That place of understanding I’m referring to may be a very long way from here. You want to know where “here” is, right? This is the kind of eater I am:
Most of the time I don’t eat any meat. But every now and then, I mix it up. I call myself a convegan. My eating habits depend on my moods, my conscience and my geographical location (If I happen to be in Memphis there is no way I’m not eating barbecue).
I was watching an episode of a TV food competition where they had to make a three-course meal using only leftovers. I heard one of the contestants say, “I just don’t do leftovers.” My initial response was outrage at his arrogance, because what are leftovers to us, those who are less fortunate would simply call food.
Then, I hopped off of my moral high horse.
As I said before, we are who we are. I like who we are. But there’s still an open question for me: How can we reconcile not wanting to waste food with, well, wasting food? What’s the difference, for us, between the spaghetti left from last night’s dinner, which some of us “just don’t do” and the crispy skin of a pig, which some of us can’t live without?
I can’t answer that question without exploring why we even have the word “leftovers,” in the first place. While I’m at it, I’d like to know why the heck we ever decided that pig snout was legit.
So, my exploration will look like this:
First, I’ll look at the history behind the original leftovers, the offal (or “nasty bits”) and why we went from eating them, to not eating them, to eating them again. Next, I’ll catch up with some folks who are experts at making the best use of these left-over parts, and maybe I’ll learn something. Then, I’ll do a little exploration of my own, both inside and outside of the kitchen. And you’re coming with me. I need moral support. This may not seem like a big deal to the average omnivore, but I’m learning here.
I mentioned that, so far, I’ve only taken two baby steps in this journey. The first was to begin writing this article. The second step? I went to the grocery store and bought two beef livers. I wanted to start with something a little more accessible. I’ve eaten liver and onions before, twice. The first time was when I was a child, and it was offal (You like that?). The second time, I was a little older, it was prepared by a very accomplished cook and it was utterly divine. The vast difference between those two experiences affirms my knowledge that what I’m potentially about to do with these animal parts could be wonderful or horrible.
Add to that the fact that my current existence involves minimal meat consumption, and you will understand why those two beef livers have been sitting in my freezer for two weeks.
This article is my introductory piece; it’s a statement of my intentions. I’m putting it out there. Now you get to hold me accountable. Each installment in the series will contain a new piece of learning, and a new activity to complement it. Since we are travel-mates on this trip, I welcome your feedback. We all have different perspectives and can learn from one another. And, now that I’ve begun to write this series, maybe the next article will include a recipe. I think I feel ready to tackle the preparation of beef liver as my inaugural nose-to-tail culinary activity.
Want to join me on this adventure? Stay tuned for more installments in “Nose-to-Tail: A Food Series.” I’ll share my activities with you, you can share your thoughts with me, and we’ll see how this thing pans out.