Odd Bits (How to cook the rest of the Animal)

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This is a bit of a rambling prelude for a really neat book.

I have a friend who believes that meat appears mysteriously in the store wrapped in plastic.  She’s only half joking.  She doesn’t want to know that the adorable chick you see in commercials or on Easter, will turn up in parts or in whole on the dinner table once full grown.  Those cows in the field are pets, they are not “A feast on hoof”.  Or leather armor on hoof, or a BBQ waiting to happen.  Nope the animals on TV and in the fields are well kept beloved pets.  I had to laugh.

In reality though, today’s meat eater is rather more spoiled then in previous years.  Our grandparents grew up eating the non “prime” meats such as tongue.  I remember when my grandmother would make tongue for tongue sandwiches.  I always thought they went better with may/horseradish spread then ketchup myself.

Period wise, meat was a luxury.   Meat was expensive.  Several Roman physicians thought that vegetarianism was the way to go and extolled on the virtues of a non meat diet.  This is noted in the book Around the Roman table by P. Faas.  Medieval Middle Eastern diets and cooking vegetarianism wasn’t really an option.  In the research done in Medieval Arab Cookery, there is a notation that meat was a gift from Allah.  Meat was just as expensive in the Medieval Middle East as any where else yet eating vegetables was not a mindset by either royalty, physicians or even the lower class.  So meat, no matter what part, was considered a blessing.

I picked up a book the other week called “Odd Bits; How to cook the rest of the Animal“, by McLagan.

The book offers great choices on how to select the various weird things from brain, to tongue and trotters.  How to look for the freshest kidneys for kidney pie or grilled kidneys.  The book gives cooking times for intestine as well as the 3 or 4 different type of intestines.  How to use pig ears and utters.  This is a extremely useful when doing any of the period cooking.

The choicest cuts of meat from a cow, pig or even the chicken use to be reserved for nobility.  They were the ones who could afford these parts.  Every one else who had spare coin or trade made due with the less then choice bits.  From these parts came both flavor and protein.  So when looking at a recipe do more then see pork loin or steaks, check and see what else might have been used or search out for those really odd recipes that we overlook as being to “different”.