Yesterday morning, I posted a picture on Facebook of a piece of meat I was cooking for that day’s lunch. This picture caused quite a stir on my profile page. As a matter of fact, it received close to 150 comments between my pictures and status updates on the topic.
This being the Easter holiday season, I purchased a lamb’s head from Fairway Market in Paramus, NJ. I’ll admit it was an impulse buy. But I just felt that if I didn’t buy that head, it would have gone to waste. As I was waiting for my turn at the butcher counter, I heard the mumblings of the people around me. They felt that displaying the head was inappropriate. One person said, “I don’t want what I’m eating to be staring at me.” Another person said, “That reminds me of my dog.” Come on people, it’s a lamb. We eat lamb chops and leg of lamb. Guess what those pieces of meat were part of a bigger, living creature.
Being Italian-American, capuzzelli as we call the lamb’s head is a part of our culture. I do understand people do not like to see where there food comes from. But, for me, I like to see what I am eating. It gives me a deeper appreciation for the animal that gave its life for my sustenance. Now, I know some might argue that we live in a modern age. This is true, but there is nothing wrong with cooking and eating dishes that play a pertinent role in our cultural heritage.
Many of the dishes that revolve around cucina povera or the rustic Italian kitchen are dishes of offal/organs or the fifth quarter (quinto quarto as it’s called in Roman cuisine). These are dishes that over the course of the years have fallen out of favor with many people, even people whose families ate it. As of late, this type of cooking is making a steady, mainstream comeback due to chefs such as Chris Cosentino of Incanto Restaurant in San Francisco, California. Last summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris (Click here for the interview). I’ve even enjoyed veal brains at one of the world’s best restaurants, The French Laundry, in Yountville, California. The French Laundry is the creation of the world renowned chef Thomas Keller. And if you’re looking for offal on the east coast, I’ve had the pleasure of eating sweetbreads (thymus gland) at Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York City just last month.
It’s quite sad, but many people would rather eat a flavorless piece of meat such as a filet mignon instead of something flavorful like brains, tongue or even brisket. We’ve become a society of pre-wrapped or frozen, boxed meat. This is very disconcerting. I understand wholeheartedly that some people cannot afford to go out to a farm and buy an animal and have it butcher. For Pete’s sake, I don’t do that either. But, I do think we need to be responsible consumers of these meat products. This doesn’t mean to shop at an organic market or a high end butcher shop. I’m not even saying you have to grind or fabricate meat at home. What I am trying to say is don’t let these big corporate supermarkets hold the cards. If you want your meat freshly ground, tell the butcher. If you want a special cut, request it. I mean the butcher is supposed to give the customers service. If they can’t or do not want to, it might be time to find a new place to shop. If people are shopping on a budget they should buy what is within their means, but the products should be fresh & wholesome. I also understand families are pressed for time nowadays, but in the case of a hamburger, it doesn’t take that long to form a patty by hand.
I am a working class guy, but I enjoy food, whether I’m preparing it or eating it. I mean there are some foods I couldn’t imagine myself eating, but I don’t bash the people that do. I chalk it all up to life’s experiences. As a matter of fact, I actually like to try these bizarre foods because the act of just trying it may change my mind about it. With that said, the lamb’s head was very good. I just wish that some of you reading this blog will go out and try something different. I’m not saying go and eat a lamb’s head, but maybe try tripe or sweetbreads or tongue or even a food you were always “afraid” of eating. I would love to see who takes me up on this challenge and hear your responses to what you eat. As I was always told while growing up, “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!” Enjoy!
Living to eat,