Yes, really! The Chinese have been doing it for thousands of years and even European countries adopted it some time ago. In recent years it has had a huge resurgence for both economical and health reasons. In Medieval times, no thought was given for a whole pig, cow or deer to be served up and cut up in front of Henry VIII’s guests – in fact, it was considered an honour.
Our prehistoric ancestors (think cavemen and women) were essentially vegetarian, until they managed to catch an unsuspecting beast. This would then be crudely cut up and cooked, generally over a pit of boiling water. Sounds appetising – for most of us not, but there can be some high quality nutritional benefits. This would potentially last them for days on end.
Of course, vegans and vegetarians may throw up their hands in horror at the thought, but if you are going to eat an animal, then why not eat all of it? Maybe you and I do not fancy eating a cow’s snout, or a pig’s tail, but it is amazing how much nutritional value can be gleaned from all parts of our animals. Then there is the ‘oh-so’ glorious broth that can be produced – maybe you do not realise that some manufacturers of canned soups use all parts of an animal to make the basis of their non-vegetarian soups?
Food for Thought
Let us get one thing straight. Nobody is suggesting that you eat every single part of an animal – just be more conscious of the fact that there is more you can do with it than just buy the usual steaks, mince and fillet from the supermarket or butcher. The principle is – make better use of the more nutritious parts of the animal than you currently do, but do not eat the parts you do not want to. It is as simple as that. Remember too, that stews are not just for winter and in this day and age, even the tougher cuts of meat can be delicious when slow-cooked. I once ate casseroled pigs cheeks, which were divine – but if someone told me what they were beforehand, would I have eaten them? Sometimes you have to not think too much, maybe.
Did you know that a large percentage of animal fat is sold and used by the cosmetics industry, in the production of soaps and face creams? This is called ‘tallow fat’ – makes for very tasty roast vegetables, particularly potatoes. Recipe developers recommend using goose fat or duck fat for your roasties, but tallow fat is equally as tasty and more economical, as often your butcher will simply throw it away. You probably will not find it in supermarkets, so try to find a butcher that will supply it.
For those of you old enough to remember, mothers and grandmothers would use up every part of a chicken. Once it had been roasted and served for lunch or dinner, the carcass would have been boiled up to break it down and form a basis for a nutritious soup. Many nationalities still do this – in fact, I do, and the remains of a Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving turkey! Bone broth is an absolute gold mine of nutrients and contains around 16 vital amino acids for a healthy body, and particularly your gut. Maybe, when you were a child and having a stinking cold, Grandma would make chicken soup – I bet that this would be based on chicken broth, with some vegetables added! Old Wives Tale? Nutritional advice disagrees that this is a fantasy, and advocates boiling up a carcass then straining it through muslin for a clear broth.
What about fish?
Whilst discussing this topic – do not forget fish. You can make a wonderful fish broth for soups such as Bouillabaisse or add it to a Chinese or Thai dish for a deep and wonderful flavour. It is done in restaurant kitchens throughout the world. Fish heads, fish tail, crab claws, you name it. Give it a try, at least once.
This is not a sermon, nor a soap box speech, but if you are a carnivore or a pescatarian, then eat what you can and make our produce more sustainable. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, that is OK too – live your life the way you want to.
Most of Western Europe is still adapting to the principle that ‘nose to tail’ can only be good for your health and make life more sustainable and economical.