Somehow I ended up 100% my father's daughter when it comes to eating. He grew up in New Zealand and, not surprisingly, many of his family were sheep farmers.
They were a traditional family who migrated from Ireland; black pudding, brains, liver, kidney and offal were frequents on the menu.
Dad, never one to follow tradition, rebelled and became a strict vegetarian, then vegan, then fruitarian, dabbling between those diets for close to 20 years. Then children came along and by the time I was 5 Dad was back on the meat train and by my teens he began delving back into these more traditional dishes of his childhood. I honestly think the whole thing started just because he got such a strong reaction from my younger sister and Mum – who still can’t stomach duck let-alone veal brains.
I, however, was all for it. Steak and kidney pie is awesome, black pudding (which is literally made from just pigs blood and fat) tasted like the best sausage ever. Liver? Whip it into a "pate" and I’ll devour it.
When I was 16 I discovered that I had a sugar allergy. It caused me to treat food in a whole new way; ingredients, quality, sustainability. I had completely removed chicken from my diet (other than organic chicken which was a lot harder to find back then) because of how terrible the conditions were in Australia. I began lecturing my parents on shopping responsibly making them opt for wild caught fish over frozen. Red meat got the green light because the farming conditions in Australia are actually pretty good (but I recommend going the extra mile to find grass fed beef instead of grain fed).
All my 16-year-old research also introduced to me the concept of nose-to-tail eating for sustainability. Now I had an even better reason to devour those bits that cause so many cringes.
I’m not a huge fan of killing anything, but I don’t believe that every human is made to be vegetarian. Some of us thrive on a vegetable-based diet, others thrive on a meat-based diet. I’m in the latter. Many of my friends sit in the former. I actually have 1 friend who get’s the same reaction to meat as I do to beans. Go figure.
If an animal is going to die though (for us meat eaters) it makes sense to me that we eat it all. Wasting any part feels like a terrible injustice to the existence of that animal.
If you genuinely don’t like certain parts of meat or if they make you physically ill (people with weak gall bladders in particular will struggle with anything too fatty) then that’s totally cool. We all have our personal preferences. Most people I speak to though, haven’t even tried them. In fact, most people haven’t even tried much outside of the standard chicken, fish and steak range of supermarket cuts.
Their rejection is based on modern conditioning that has removed us entirely from the fact we’re actually eating an animal that once had blood, organs, a brain and a heart. If this is you then I urge you to take a leaf from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham and “try them Sam I Am”.
Because they actually do taste great (I promise I’m not totally crazy); I’m a foodie and if it tasted awful I wouldn’t be going back for more.
For my meat eating amigo’s willing to get out of your comfort zone and embrace the most sustainable way to eat your meat, here’s some suggestions:
- Black Pudding: Unfortunately it’s actually pretty hard to get good black pudding in Australia, but if you come across it, fry it up in little slices until it’s crispy on both sides and have it with your eggs in the morning. Sometimes I have it instead of eggs with just some spinach and avocado.
- Liver: Make your own pate or parfait – Jamie Oliver has a pretty sweet recipe here.
- Kidney: My Dad’s Steak & Kidney pie is all-time. Do it with sweet potato or cauliflower mash and it’s also totally paleo.
- Brains: OK, I haven’t cooked brains at home myself yet. It’s something I save for when I find it on a menu –Tuscan restaurants do them particularly well. If you have a winning recipe, shoot it through.
- Kangaroo: Don’t even get me started on kangaroo. We cull kangaroos to make room to farm sheep so that we can kill the sheep. Umm… What?! Kangaroo is a lean and super tasty meat. It’s all about cooking it the right way. Personally, I’m not a fan of a kangaroo steak – I’d go a grass fed scotch fillet any day. But Kangaroo is beautiful in curries, slow roasted or as a mince substitute for spaghetti bolognese, lasagna or pies. Watch out for the “kanga bangas” though – they’re kangaroo sausages and usually filled with all kinds of artificial hoo-ha.
- Whole Fish: Opt for wild caught (local if possible) fish and when you can try to get a whole fish. It means there’s no wastage and the taste of fish when it’s cooked with the flesh and fat intact is incredible. You can shove it in the oven and bake it or if it’s small enough just slowly grill 1 side at a time. I recommend lemon, garlic and dill for cooking – always a winner for fish.
- Keep Your Carcass: Oooh I love a good bone broth or stock. It’s so incredibly easy to make, just keep the carcass or bones from a roast and either shove it in a crock pot with onions, carrots, bay leaves and celery or slow simmer it for 4 hours on the stove. There are plenty of recipes out there for different types.
- Make Friends With Your Butcher: I’m on first-name basis with my local butcher. He makes an effort to source his meat locally, ensures it’s all free-range (if not organic), makes his own sausages and cures his own bacon. It means he can tell me exactly what’s in everything, give me whatever cut I request and he does me a special batch of bacon that he makes up just for me without sugar. He also saves bones for me to use in stocks and let’s me know the order days so I always get the freshest meat. Yup, he’s a gem. I highly recommend finding an awesome one near you.