The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Don’t Fear The Meat

A couple years ago, I was at a restaurant in Richmond, VA with a couple co-workers.  One of the items on the menu was roasted snapper, which the waiter pointed out was a whole fish. It looked something like this –

whole fish blogkitchenaidcom

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I guess this co-worker missed the “whole” part, because she freaked when it was presented to her.   She said she couldn’t eat it because it still had the head on and the eyes were looking at her.  When she asked the waiter if they could take it back, he immediately got huffy and pointed out that he DID say it was whole.  And when she asked if they could take it off the bone for her, he flat-out said, “NO.” The reason – “doing so would disrupt the integrity of the dish.”

Seriously.  What a douche.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, I grabbed the plate and de-boned it for her.  (Of course, my shameless self went to town on the head.)   Putting aside the incredible arrogance of the restaurant – and I hear that all the waitstaff there are like that – I’m a little curious as to why many people can’t handle whole fish.  I would think that a toddler could make the connection that a fish stick on a plate came from something that was swimming around with a head and fins.  Did this co-worker think that fish filets were raised with some sort of sorcery where it’s just a square piece of seafood floating around in water?

But it’s not just whole fish that have people squeamish.  Through the years, I’ve met several people that could not touch raw chicken meat.  Not because they’re afraid of bacteria, but because it’s….it’s…it’s RAW.   Obviously my son has zero problems with it.

chickenhands

His name is Berkeley Chickenhands.

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I know this shouldn’t bother me, but it does.  I wouldn’t consider myself one of those altruistic animal lovers by any stretch. But I strongly believe that if an animal had to die to feed us then, out of respect, we really should be using every bit of it.  Use the skin for leather, the bones for stock, and even eat the nasty bits like the liver, sweetbreads, and feet.

I think there’s a disconnect between people and food.   We’re finally coming around to understand the health problems associated with eating overly processed foods.  While meat’s not necessarily bad for you like boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, it’s still processed and put into nice little Styrofoam packages with clear plastic wrap.

I’m not suggesting that we go to the local farm and start petting your next meal. You can gain get a little closer to the meat supply by going to a local butcher.   There you can get all kinds of meats and get tips on how to prepare them.  And you don’t have to load up on organ meat (at least not right away). You can start by getting something with the bones still attached like these Frenched beef shortribs, which I got at Sparrow Market in downtown Ann Arbor.

frenched shortribs

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Even though they were processed and tied up, it still looked like it came from an animal.  I cooked up them up using my go-to braised shortrib recipe.

Frenched sr cooked

I was ready to eat them just like that.

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Although I’ve made the recipe several times, the different presentation made it feel somehow special.  So, while still in a groove, I served it with some pureed cauliflower, wine reduction, and roasted carrots.

frenched sr plated

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Getting to know where our meat comes from and learning about the different cuts and how to cook them will lead to new techniques and recipes.  When I did this I not only ate better tasting food, I also ate better for me food.

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Are there any foods you won’t touch? Or are you a nose-to-tail eater like me?

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

14 comments on “Don’t Fear The Meat

  1. dwdirwin
    September 16, 2014

    I’m a little squeamish over organ meats and more non-traditional cuts. But hey, I grew up Seventh Day Adventist, and my nose-to-tail loving husband has made some progress with me 🙂

  2. sophisticatedjerseygirl
    September 16, 2014

    I agree that it’s important to know and respect where our food comes from, and that when it involves meat, that we should use all parts possible.

  3. Cara Thereon
    September 16, 2014

    Entrails weird me out a bit, but that’s because anything harboring poop is too much for me to even think about. Aside from that I’m usually game.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      September 18, 2014

      Entrails does make it sound nasty. Maybe that’s way they named them “chittlins” ?

  4. NeuronTree
    September 16, 2014

    I eat fish and I like to think I could hack a whole fish on my plate, though I have yet to experience it. Having said that, touching raw meat grosses me out (that’s not fish) and it is the bacteria issue. I’ve been pescatarian for 6 years now and every now and then I try meat again to see if I want to go back and if I come across a blood vessel or grizzle or whatever – I am instantly put off. When I was a caregiver I wouldn’t cook meat without putting gloves on, no matter how well my hands were washed. If I can’t handle the nitty gritty then I ought not to eat it or be a part of it’s consumption.
    I am with you though, I agree that people should be real about what they’re consuming, be aware and present, and recognize all of the carcasses uses as well.

  5. Frankwell
    September 17, 2014

    Ah I’ve missed this blog and feeling hungry every time I return! I’ll eat anything from nose to tail. I think if people eat with their mouth rather than their eyes, they’d be surprised what they actually like.

  6. Yinzerella
    September 17, 2014

    I eat everything. I have no issue with offal (obviously). I draw the line at unconventional foods, though (bugs, snake, etc).

    I often save the bones from dishes and then make stock later on. I’ve even taken fish heads home from whole fish I’ve had at restaurants to make soup.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      September 18, 2014

      I’m sure I’ve had bugs before – isn’t it something like every box of cereal has a whole bunch dead bugs in it? Didn’t stop me… I get your point though. I’ve had snake at a restaurant, but not sure I could actually prepare it myself.

      And that’s hardcore with the fish heads!

  7. A Famished Foodie
    September 17, 2014

    I’ve never understood people who can’t take looking at a whole fish, crab, etc. I have found that it is mostly Americans that are like this, although as processed food becomes increasingly popular, more and more cultures are starting to become squeamish of the natural things.

    I was at a prosciutto event once where the woman who raised the meat was showing me pictures of the pigs feeding on chestnuts, etc, and then she asked me, somewhat worriedly, if I minded seeing my food like this. My response was that I respected the animals that made this food…I just wish more people were like this.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      September 18, 2014

      Wonder if that’s one of the reasons why there aren’t those seafood restaurants where you can pick out your fish or lobster? I know it probably costs a lot, but maybe a contributing factor is that people just couldn’t do it?

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This entry was posted on September 16, 2014 by in Ann Arbor, Cooking and tagged , , , , .
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