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.