Monday, April 28, 2008

Eating it All


From the Magill University collection of World War I propaganda posters


Ever since I read the very first edition of Diet for a Small Planet nearly forty years ago, I’ve been uncomfortably aware of the environmental consequences of eating lots of meat. I never totally renounced it, but I didn’t (and don’t) eat much.

But when we moved to Sumas, other factors came into play. Meat animals are part of a homestead economy. They use the land that isn’t in crops because of topography or time considerations, they eat the windfalls, their manure nourishes the vegetable garden and the orchard. My first years there were a crash course in all the meat cookery I had never learned when I was a dumpster diving, commodities cooking, far from starving student. I thought more about the stories I heard from my Tibetan friends Rinjing and Yeshe. As Buddhists, they had a mandate to avoid killing; as realists in a region with little arable land, they had to eat meat or starve. So for both spiritual and practical reasons, they tried to waste nothing.

On the farm I learned to cook oxtail, tongue, sweetbreads, and beef heart; I learned to render lard, and of course I made all my own soup stocks from scratch. I didn’t tackle brains (though I have since had them in taquitos), and I didn’t, unlike my neighbor Bill Waddell, stash a freshly butchered hogs head in the kitchen sink until I could get back to it to make head cheese. (That project was deep-sixed by Bill’s wife Sharon when she got home from work and found it.)

And though I was inspired by Rinjing and Yeshe approach, I never tried their recipe for sheep’s lung stuffed with spiced flour and boiled. A sample instruction: “Blow the lung up by breathing into the windpipe. Close the windpipe so the air cannot get out and dip the lung in water to see if it is airtight. If it leaks, it cannot be used.”

Nor did I make their Broth Soup, which like the Sheep’s Lung is featured in their fascinating book, Food in Tibetan Life, but you could:

3 lb marrow bones, preferably smashed into small chunks (Tibetans use a large mortar called a tsom.)
3 teaspoons salt or to taste
4 beaten eggs
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
15 cups water

Put bones in water and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. If the bones you use are not in small pieces, you may want to cook them longer, even for several hours, to extract more flavor. When you do this, keep the cover on at least part of the time to keep the broth from cooking away. Drain the broth from the bones. Then add the beaten eggs and the salt. Blend or mix well. Add the cilantro, stir, and serve in bowls.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate~ being relsihed with such delicacies as bacon, liver and eggs for breakfast by my grandmother,when visiting her on her farm in New Zealand.

Makes me wonder what the younger generation is missing when they are not exposed to such delicacies and instead "force-fed" (by the avid media machine) on a diet of Twinkies, do-nuts, sugar coated cereals, ad nauseum....

Heather said...

It is amazing to think of people still working that hard for their food, and wasting so little. I have seen many a funny face when I tell people not to throw out the chicken bones, I want to make soup. It always amazes me how infrequently I have to change my garbage when I take the time to use up the "spare parts".

Anonymous said...

Heather~
I agree...being involved with Slow Food here in Bellingham has made me realize how "fast food" focused with have become and also how wasteful we have become with food/left-overs.

I do truly believe that food tasted better in the "old days", was more nutritious and involved sitting around a dining table actually talking to one another~ what a terrific concept!

Anonymous said...

Heather~
I agree...being involved with Slow Food here in Bellingham has made me realize how "fast food" focused with have become and also how wasteful we have become with food/left-overs.

I do truly believe that food tasted better in the "old days", was more nutritious and involved sitting around a dining table actually talking to one another~ what a terrific concept!

Anonymous said...

Seeing as you are in Bellingham and connected with food, you may like this blog site as well~



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Seven Trees said...

We're starting to explore getting the most out of our meat animals now. We have little Douglas, our Dexter steer calf. He's cute as all get out, but his job is to be our meat someday. When he's butchered, we'll keep every bit of him we can.

We were lucky enough to get a whole cooler full of beef hearts and livers from a friend, and we froze them and make giant batches of dog food that I can. I clean out the freezer and pantry for stuff that's is still nutritious, but maybe past peak, and we make a stew that the dogs (a major part of our stead team) love with their kibble.

We eat our home raised chickens. They make magical broth. And chickens are the best way to use scraps! Our laying flock also free ranges with our cattle and keep the bug population down. They aren't pets, but we absolutely respect what they provide for us.

Mr Green Genes said...

Greetings from a fellow 'Hamster~

love the blog... but need more, please, as Oliver Twist mentioned..

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