The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating Review

The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
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The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating ReviewI have to start by saying that I can prepare only ten of the thirty-four recipes in the meat section of this cookbook without special ordering, and thirteen are virtually impossible due to unavailability of ingredients. Lamb tongues? Pig tails? Quarts of pig blood? Lamb hearts? Forget it. I live near a large butcher who can't or won't provide any of these items for any price I can pay. They go to the dogfood plants. This is a pity, as anyone lucky enough to have eaten the flavorful extremities and innards of young animals can attest. Our American supermarket meat counters have for years whittled down the selection in favor of the most flavorless cuts: fillet mignon and chicken breast have taken the shelf space once dedicated to the "set of delights, textural and flavorsome, which lie beyond the fillet", to quote author Fergus Henderson. As our cultural memory of the flavors of the parsimonious and creative farmhouse kitchen shrivels, our food is impoverished. Henderson writes a sharp critique of our culture of waste, but only as the byproduct of his central thesis: that there is a world of pleasure out there for those who set aside their suburban sqeamishness and eat the whole beast.
Among the few recipes I can follow without unconscionable substitutions are some real gems. Tripe and Onions, remarkably similar to French, Italian, Spanish, and even Mexican preparations, is delicious. Rabbit and Garlic is a powerfully aromatic feast. Beans and Bacon is a perfect rustic dish, a worthy simplification that could stand for cassoulet. Ox Tongue and Bread, really a carpaccio or hearty salad, is an excellent meal on its own, great with a simple and light red table wine. Each time I've prepared a dish from this book, I've lamented the narrow-minded marketing that makes most of the book inaccessible.
My laments are accompanied by shameless keening when I get to the Birds and Game section. Almost nothing in this section is possible here. A shame, really. Some of these recipes make great reading. But so did Don Quixote, and I'm not any more able to get fresh pigeon [without a good slingshot] than I am able to book a flight to medieval Spain. This highlights the real perversity of this book: af all the many cookbooks in my library, representing such far-flung cuisines as Indian, Turkish, and West African, the most exotic is from my ancestral England, from a chef who speaks something very like my own language, and whose ingredients sound, but for the specific location of their cuts, very familiar. How far we've come without true progress!
Go to the meat counter and test this assertion: our culture values two characteristics above all others in meat: softness and blandness. Now consider what we're missing: the heady pleasures of the most flavorful cuts of meat, skillfully prepared and simply served. Somewhere along the way we've abandoned a great cultural inheritance. It takes an act of will to remember that abundance has cost us dearly.
I wish I had the means to distribute this excellent book like a religious tract. It will take something like religious fervor on the part of a few brave souls to get us back to the roots of our cooking: farm and field.The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating Overview
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating is a certified "foodie" classic. In it, Fergus Henderson -- whose London restaurant, St. John, is a world-renowned destination for people who love to eat "on the wild side" -- presents the recipes that have marked him out as one of the most innovative, yet traditional, chefs. Here are recipes that hark back to a strong rural tradition of delicious thrift, and that literally represent Henderson's motto, "Nose to Tail Eating" -- be they Pig's Trotter Stuffed with Potato, Rabbit Wrapped in Fennel and Bacon, or his signature dish of Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad. For those of a less carnivorous bent, there are also splendid dishes such as Deviled Crab; Smoked Haddock, Mustard, and Saffron; Green Beans, Shallots, Garlic, and Anchovies; and to keep the sweetest tooth happy, there are gloriously satisfying puddings, notably the St. John Eccles Cakes, and a very nearly perfect Chocolate Ice Cream.

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