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Nose to Tail: Not for the Faint at Heart - A little less than a happy high
Nose to Tail: Not for the Faint at Heart
Earlier this week, I braised a lamb's head. It was skinned and short of its ears, but it was unmistakably the head of an animal. That I cooked. To eat. To add to any lingering weirdness, I'm pretty sure that the bag came with his name written on it. The resulting soup was delicious, but it was perhaps one of the most personal meal I've ever prepared.

Robert, formerly of Formaggio Kitchen, tells a story about the pig that the staff had raised with every intention of turning into delicious meat products once it had grown. They named it, and there were some misgivings when it came to slaughtering time. They all grieved by having an enormous barbecue, and according to the story, the pork was delicious.

Of course, this was different. I arrived at the end of the process rather than seeing the rearing of the animal from it's birth. In fact, I had no relationship with the animal apart from being a potential consumer. Still, the pangs of regret were there, and even a touch of shame. It was nothing unmanageable, but I did have a very distinct "Oh.My.God." moment. The food I was preparing had a face, and that's something that I do not often have to cope with.

What's weird is that I'm really not at all squeamish about parts. Offal of various sorts has been the basis of some of the most imaginative and delicious dishes I've had. Heck, I was raised spreading headcheese on toast with a touch of French's Genuine Blue-Collar Mustard before I realized what it was, and hardly blinked an eye when my grandfather finally explained it to me. It was tasty, and it seemed like using still more of the animal was a good idea. I never got around to actually learning how to make it, though.

When all is said and done, I think this was an important experience for me. I'm pretty committed to the concepts around responsible use, and in spite of any misgivings I may have had, I really enjoyed working with the head as an ingredient. I fretted a little overmuch for fear that V wouldn't be able to follow me down this path, but in spite of her request that she not have to see the head, she seemed to enjoy the results in the end. I doubt I will ever become entirely inured to the regret, but I'm guessing it'll be much easier next go. Milestone managed.
9 comments or Leave a comment
cris From: cris Date: October 9th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
out of curiosity, have you ever cooked a lobster or 'cleaned' a crab?

my mom grew up on a farm in Bulacan and would tell us about the whole thing how each of her siblings would make that mistake of initially bonding with an animal then getting their heart broken after slaughter. It was always with pigs, though. One doesn't bond well with chickens because those are mean, dirty, nasty, little fuckers (not her words exactly).

still kudos to you for eating a face, it's certainly good to be reminded that all of our meat had one at one point.
komos From: komos Date: October 9th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but I feel like there is something fundamentally different between cooking bugs of the sea and cooking the head of a mammal. Lobsters and crabs are sufficiently alien that they don't quite register on the "food with a face" scale in the same way. Still, I might have an issue with splitting a live lobster from stern to tip for something like Homard L'Americaine, something I've not yet attempted.
cook_ting From: cook_ting Date: October 9th, 2009 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
That is a serious thing you've done and a heavy moment had. I salute you, sir.
komos From: komos Date: October 9th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
It wasn't exactly burying and apologizing, but it was in that vein.
sassyinkpen From: sassyinkpen Date: October 9th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I applaud this. I have, in the past, made myself take part in the various stages of deer processing. It's tough, and now I stay well away.
komos From: komos Date: October 9th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a growing fascination with the butcher's craft, so I anticipate that at some point (though probably after the purchase of a chest freezer), I will at least assist in processing a whole animal. I'm still a bit intimidated, but this week's exercise was an important step.
prosicated From: prosicated Date: October 10th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but are you a Fiji Meat Man?
komos From: komos Date: October 10th, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Somehow, my world is a better place for knowing that exists.
prosicated From: prosicated Date: October 10th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad to help. I've been trying not to sing the song for weeks now... =)
9 comments or Leave a comment