Tongue to tail eating
You may have heard of ‘nose-to-tail eating’, that thoughtful philosophy where every part of the animal is used, appreciated and (by default) honoured. If you haven’t, let me take a moment to lecture you about why this practice is so essential for the modern health aficionado (i’ll let you know when the scolding is over and we can return to being friends).
The fruits of tongue-to-tail eating. Have a stab at the mystery meat!
I think it’s fair to say that, as a society, we have a collective infatuation with ease. Ease of consumption, ease of travel, ease of cleaning, ease of communication (simply scan your bestie’s microchip to download the latest goss!). Quick, hyper-palatable and non-threatening foods sustain us – to hell with the icky bits!
To us, steak grows in perfect symmetry inside test tubes; the rest of the cow and all it’s challenging bodily bits simply evaporate. Gone, in a puff of active forgetfulness. We deftly avert our gaze as the piles of waste from our materially expensive habits accumulate in massive smouldering heaps behind us. Mountains of perfectly usable bits and pieces that, with a little effort, can be transformed into cheap, environmentally friendly masterpieces!
Today, I want to challenge you to shake off your soft, societal veil, through which everything is neat and pretty and vaccuum sealed. I urge you to consider what happens to the rest of the animal after we select our preferred cut and wastefully wave away the rest. You may turn your nose up at offal, organs, bones and boiled appendages, but it’s merely a matter of recalibrating your expectations, ethics and attitude. In short, move past your conditioned antipathy and man the hell up!
We can transpose this argument onto many examples of modern, wasteful extravagance. Single-serve packaging, made-to-break appliances, nappies, water bottles, phones, computers, clothing – all devoured at warp speed and tossed.
Well. The antidote to that is tongue.
Yep. Licky, taste-bud-speckled, COW TONGUE. Many of my cultured, foreign friends squealed with delight as I mentioned my latest offal experiment – it seems that svelte European cultures still appreciate the beauty of a choice cut of bovine tissue. My Aussie friends? I was met with more overt scepticism.
To me however, it symbolises everything we need to embrace in order to live more thoughtfully. For it’s all well and good to be ‘paleo’, ‘primal’, ‘cave-person’ or ‘Weston A. Price’, but if you’re still coveting muscle meat and avoiding the challenging bits, you’re really just cruising on easy-meat-street. Traditional cultures utilised the ENTIRE animal – meat, bones, organs and hide. Nothing was wasted. Everything was cherished. A single cow could last a frugal family an entire season. It’s time to re-sensitize ourselves to tongue!
So where did I procure such a beauty? It was actually at a local farmer’s market while chatting to the abundantly good-humoured and knowledgable farmer behind Paddock to Plate - supplying grass-fed/finished Angus beef, pork, lamb and goat from the Hawkesbury Valley. I was thrilled to meet likeminded, conscientious producers who not only humoured my naive offal enthusiasm, but also offered it to me for free! It is testament to the fact that so few customers request the ‘ugly bits’ that he was willing to bestow a giant lolling tongue AND a bag of the most incredible marrow and joint bones on me, merely in exchange for a friendly conversation. Head over to Like their facebook page, if you feel so inclined – i’ll be contacting them to order more meat, bones and tongue in future as I was so impressed by the quality of their meat and ethical standpoint.
So how do you wrestle such an appendage, if you do take me up on my tongue testimonial?
It’s actually not so tough.
Let this vague set of instructionals guide you:
- Sweet talk yourself a grass-fed beast tongue from a friendly local farmer. Fist pump, and parade it around with unparalleled glee. (I recommend waving it in the face of squeamish friends, or ‘french kissing’ unsuspecting family members – not to horribly disrespect the animal or anything).
- Place in a pot of cool water, complete with a random assortment of herbs (I used peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, garlic and ginger) and bring to the boil.
- Turn down and simmer with the lid on for 2-3 hours, depending on the hugeness of the tongue. Sticking a knife in with ease should be an indication that it’s ready.
- Remove with tongs and plunge into a cold water bath for easy ‘peeling’ of the skin. This bit may elicit squeals, dainty ballerina dancing and hysterical giggles – persevere and challenge your inner princess.
- Once the outer later has been removed, you may like to trim excess jiggly/spongy bits off the meat. If not, more potent offal power to you!
- Now your meat is cooked and ready to consume – you can slice it thin like cold deli meat and serve on sandwiches, with salads and vegetables, or fry it (like we did) in butter or coconut oil, salt and a few choice herbs for a delicious warm dinner.
(Frying in a healthy dose of coconut oil).
What is it like?
Look, i’ll admit that i’m still relatively new to the ‘nose-to-tail’ scene, and am striving to familiarise my tastebuds with unusual edible specimens. But I handled tongue like a pro, only wussing out when I thought too deeply about the realities of what I was chewing. Don’t do that. It tastes meaty yet delicate, thanks to it’s soft, buttery texture and high fat content. It’s rather delicious warm, especially served with a side of homemade pickle, relish or your (flourless, real-food) version of gravy.
- Tongue is extremely high in fat – of the excellent, saturated variety.
- It is a great source of cholesterol (read about why we love it here!)
- A 100gm serving has upwards of 50% of your daily B-12 requirements.
- It is relatively high in minerals, with around 30% of the RDI for zinc (based on a 85gm portion), 16% of the RDI for selenium and 12% of your iron. Of course, you’d be forgiven for gobbling a little more. Go to town!
If I haven’t convinced you to seek out a huge, hulking organ for dinner, I hope to at least have imparted some appreciation of the forgotten bits. The parts that end up as dog food, fertiliser, or simply emitting methane in a big stinking landfill. As much as we don’t want to look/touch/taste the parts of the animal that look decidedly, well, animal (perhaps they are too stark a reminder of what we’re truly eating) it’s important that we overcome our collective squeamishness and make an effort to consume thoughtfully. If that involves eating liver, trotters and tongue for the rest of my days, so be it. We have it too easy – picking and choosing rump and eye-fillets, leaving the rest for the peasants. Well, today I embrace peasant-hood and declare this tongue a wiggly, sustainable SUCCESS!