Getting to the Gut of Nose-to-tail Dining: How Offal is No Longer off Limits in American Kitchens

Americans, by and large, have become accustomed to taking what we want of the animal and exporting the rest.
06/26/2014 05:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"Eating green" is today's hip trend, like scrunchies in the '80s. By "green" I don't just mean a strong enthusiasm for kale -- though that's also on the eco-foodie checklist -- but minimal-carbon-footprint, save-the-world dining. One of the most sustainable ways of eating includes nose-to-tail meals that take advantage of every last scrap of the animal.

Chefs across the country have picked up on the whole-hog demand, placing once-banished innards on couture menus. At DBGB in New York, Daniel Boulud serves a spicy blood and pig's head sausage while Animal in Los Angeles cooks up veal brains and fried pig's ears. The Publican in Chicago not only offers raw beef heart but will show you how to break down a whole chicken in under two minutes.

And now offal distributors are hoping "green" eaters will want to take these sustainable organs home with them. Companies like LLano Seco Organic Pork and The Butcher's Guild are using awareness campaigns -- such as Offal Wonderful in Oakland, Calif., which celebrates "the fabulousness of the inside of every animal" -- in hopes of generating excitement about cooking innards. But it's one thing to nosh on fried sweetbreads, creamy liver pᅢᄁtᅢᄅ or crunchy chitterlings while out on the town, and another to whip up a batch of tripe stew at home.

Yet author Jennifer McLagan is banking on that happening. Her new cookbook, Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, provides recipes for the "strange wobbly bits." She urges readers to, "think beyond familiar chops, steaks and roasts." As other countries steam haggis, scramble brains, and slow cook stomach, Americans, by and large, have become accustomed to taking what we want of the animal and exporting the rest (meaning, the hearts, brains, livers, stomachs and testicles), but perhaps that's all about to change.

"The last step in that chain [will be] where people begin to cook [offal] in their home or buy it in stores," Gulp author Mary Roach has said. "That's when I'll really be surprised, kidneys showing up in the Trader Joe's microwavables."

But until we see Liver and Heart Hot Pockets, The Butcher's Guild may still have some campaigning to do.


Originally published on Generation Yum.

Follow Eve on Facebook and Twitter @Eve Turow.