Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Is this meat?"

We've been doing a bit of meat processing of late - pigs, lambs and, of course, chickens. The kids have been with us all the way, interested and enthralled by the process, and it's prompted them to become quite engaged with the question of what meat actually is. Oscar in particular went through a process of trying to discern what else in his life might be considered a meat possibility. Pointing at the dog: "Is this meat?" Pointing to his cheek: "Is this meat?" The answer to his question, of course, is that what can be considered 'meat' is completely subjective and socially determined.
Slow-cooked Spanish style wild rabbit stew, made using home-cured chilli pancetta, served with soft polenta. A 'normal' kind of 'meat', but why?

Oscar,  having not been at all socialised to reject certain kinds of meat potentials, is all for considering the possibilities. For this reason, he was the only person in our family to try the lamb's tongue. He loved it! Gulping it down from a little yellow tea cup while watching Gourmet Farmer on DVD.
Oscar enjoying his cup o' tongue
He was also the one who prompted me to consider the meat potential of chicken necks, which I regularly bring home from the abattoir for making stock, which we use in everything, but most deliciously, in congee
One day, after the stock was done and packaged and safely deposited into the freezer, Oscar came upon the colander of chicken necks, onions and celery tops. "What's this? A sausage?" he asked, holding up one of the necks. "Yeah, kind of." I replied, at which point he started chomping on it. The upside to his adventurousness is that he now has a super-nutritious snack of 'neck sausages' every time I make stock, and I discovered that necks actually have heaps of meat on them. So now, when I make the stock, I spend 10 minutes or so afterwards stripping the necks into a neat little parcel of beautiful, cooked chicken meat for sandwiches or soup or whatever. Yum!

When we recently processed our lamb, I was keen to make use of the lamb's head, which I knew would contain quite a bit  of meat - too much to discard, for sure.
The lamb's head. Most of the meat came from the cheek areas
The answer came in the form of a Iranian breakfast soup called Kaleh Pacheh, which is traditionally made with the head and the hoofs of the lamb. For some reason the hoofs were fed to the dogs, so I just used the head. I used the recipe in the link above, though I added some apple cider vinegar to help get the goodies out of the bones. We cooked it (overnight!) in our pizza oven, so it was a nice long, slow cook. Next day, I stripped the skull of all its meat and stirred it through the broth.
Kaleh Pacheh - served with a squeeze of lemon and a freshly-cooked home-made flatbread
The resulting soup was a gorgeous green colour, not too chunky, herby, and quite rich. It's got an interesting flavour, and though I don't mind having things like congee with poached eggs for breakfast, I don't know that I'll be rushing to have Kaleh Pacheh first thing in the morning, though it made a delicious light lunch.
Leftover congee with poached eggs - possibly my favourite breakfast
Despite my attempts to challenge my "is this meat?" socialisation, I didn't taste the tongue, and I didn't put the eyeballs in the soup. Which made me realise how strong and pervasive this socialisation is. Here I am, philosophically and ethically completely in favour of eating all bits, and I still had insurmountable "ew" about the eyeballs and tongue. Interesting.

Next stop on our "is this meat?" adventure is my Oma's braun, which we are making from the head of our pig, which is safely waiting in the freezer. I'm excited - I know it will be delicious - but also apprehensive about overcoming my 'ew' enough to use and eat the tongue, to get all the hair off the pig's head, clean out the ear wax etc... But I'm up for it. We have to be, because we all waste so much, and a socialised 'ew' to perfectly good, readily available, local food is something worth challenging.


  1. I think it's natural to feel ew in this culture. Give us true starvation and desperate needs for survival and the ew would quickly turn to yum. for now I'm Ok with my ew towards tongue and most offal. It may be good for me but I'm happy for my dogs to enjoy it and not feel the ew. LOL I love how you guys are challenging yourselves though and I think if it suits you to do that then fantastic. Tonug in a teacup is flipping hilarious. I can see a vintage inspired post coming up for my blog - tongue in a tea cup, eyeballs in little green class dishes, ears on gilt china plates. Oh the mind is going wild!!! Hahaha!! Love your writing and what you're doing:) xox

  2. Pmsl at tonug!!! Edit, kim edit!!!!

  3. OMG YUM!!! i especially like the congee and would love to try the iranian thing some day, I might do it with a goats head…mmm….

    1. Ooooh goats head, can't wait to hear/see/taste how you go... Love x

  4. Funny, I just made a stew from our calf's tongue on the weekend, and then I read this on Monday! The stew turned out delicious, and the tongue meat is very tasty and tender. For the first time, I was able to get my wife and youngest daughter to try offal - they loved it, and ate a whole meal of it. Win! Now I just have to work on getting them to eat livers and kidneys...

    1. Thanks for your words Darren. Funnily enough our next post will probably be about our delicious chicken liver pate which the whole family is currently enjoying. Is there any better way to eat liver? We think not! Thanks for reading... all the best x