“Every earth-conscious home cook who wishes to nourish his or her family with sustainable, local, grassfed and pastured meats should be able to, regardless of income,” argues Shannon Hayes, radical homesteader and author of Long Way on a Little. The core reference for any home cook, Long Way on a Little examines the conundrum of maintaining a healthy, affordable and ecologically conscious meat-based diet, while simultaneously paying America’s small sustainable farmers a fair price for their food. In this excerpt from chapter 9, “Heads, Tails and Other Under-Appreciated Treasures,” learn about nose-to-tail cooking and how offal, such as chicken livers, lamb’s heads and oxtails, are packed with essential nutrients and often contribute the best flavor to home cooking. Then try some delicious offal recipes.
“Heads, Tails and other Under-Appreciated Treasures,” is a foray into what most Americans consider the grisly side of prudent meat consumption. I, too, fell into this camp, balking at the very idea of cooking a pig’s head or skewering a chicken’s heart. The thought of tackling this chapter, frankly, filled me with dread. Having written it, I’ve come through the fog, and the recipes included are some of my family’s favorites. While heads, tails and organ meats do not represent as much waste from an animal as the bones and fat, their concentration of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins makes discarding them a huge waste of nutritional value. And, handled properly, they are fantastic.
Long Way on a Little represents the single greatest learning curve I’ve climbed in my understanding of grassfed meats and how to most thoroughly use them. It represents four years of studying cookbooks from the Great Depression and World War II eras, of experimenting in the kitchen, of writing and rewriting until I could outline a new cuisine for my family that minimizes our waste and maximizes our nutrition and our enjoyment. I hope you will find it useful in your own kitchen, and that you will join me in what has now become a permanent learning path, of perpetually exploring how we can use our food choices to heal the planet and change the course of history in this country, and how, ultimately, each of us can find the delicious trail to going a long way on a little.
I’ll admit it: I did not look forward to researching and writing this chapter of the book. Organ meats, heads, feet and other such odious (in my opinion) cuts were an over-glorified salvation effortthe affected cuisine of die-hard nutritional fanatics, stoic old-world hausfraus or pretentious epicureans. According to my own eco-sensibilities, if a person chose to forsake the organ meats, but made full use of the bones and fat of the beasts that gave their lives for our wellbeing, well, that was ample thrift to earn the omnivore’s atonement. As far as I was concerned, the kidneys, livers and hearts could go to the dogs, the heads and feet to the compost or the renderer. I have just enough customer demand for oxtails to equal our supply, so I rarely ate those, either (though they never repelled me as hearts and heads did).