When was the last time you feasted on ‘mystery’ meat? No, not that frozen, reheated chicken patty slapped on your lunch tray at the ‘ol high school cafeteria. We’re talking straight up variety meat, offal.
Offal is not something you’ll find in the sea of plastic-wrapped Styrofoam containers at the grocery store. Offal refers to the parts of an animal that literally fall off (off fall) upon being butchered, organs, feet, tail, brain, heart, liver, and tongue.
These variety meats are both taboo and a delicacy. When head-to-tail butchery was norm people knew how to cook, eat and make use of a full animal. Centering on traditional regional fare and haute cuisine, typical offal may be found as foie gras, pâté, sweetbreads, haggis, chitterlings, tripe or chopped liver.
Offal is high in protein and nutritional value, in most parts of the world it is commonly prepared and eaten. However, here in the USA a predominantly squeamish attitude is portrayed when referencing offal.
Perhaps, it’s the in-your-face notion that feet or brains remind us that we are indeed, eating an animal, as our society has been desensitized as to where our meat comes from—yes, meat does come from a living, breathing mammal and not a package.
p.s. the masses have no qualms chewing away at a cows butt e.g., top round or rump roast, anyone!
The rarity of offal also lends to its foreignness on the palettes of the mass populous. Often texturally grisly, chewy and typically possessing a strong flavor, preparation may also serve as a speed bump as we’ve separated offal from our diets. Instead it’s best savored by those who grew up sucking on chicken feet and stuffing a sheep’s stomach full of savory pudding.
Offal disappearing from the mainstream is also attributed to a sense of snobbism as consumers began to afford more expensive cuts of meat when mass production took off. The status symbol of offal was scoffed as food of the poor; the cooking, eating and selling of it became a rarity in affluent regions.
Perhaps it’s time for a revival of offal, calling all chefs, home-cooks, butchers, farmers and grocers bring it!
By doing so, traditions will be preserved, it may lead us to have a better appreciation of the animal farming process, while supporting humane animal raising, and it’s green—less waste and nutritional.