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Tongue to tail eating

August 27, 2012

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.

Nutritional benefits:

  1. Tongue is extremely high in fat – of the excellent, saturated variety.
  2. It is a great source of cholesterol (read about why we love it here!)
  3. A 100gm serving has upwards of 50% of your daily B-12 requirements.
  4. 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!

Tell me your favourite offal recipes? Any creative tips for minimising food waste?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2012 2:59 pm

    Haha…too funny!

    Marrow bones are AMAZING when you slow roast them….

    As for tongue – have had it once and it was..ok. I am not overly sensitive to eating ‘random’ parts but it just wasn’t delectable.

    My challenge I put to you is LIVER. I have tried twice to render this edible, but it is the first time I cooked something and wanted to turn vegan.

    Since I hate waste so much, I have given up until someone shows me an edible version (apart from pate….yum)

    • Catie permalink*
      August 28, 2012 9:57 am

      Slow roasting marrow bones! There’s an incredible idea.

      Re. the liver conundrum, I only ever make pâté! What a wuss. I’ve frozen chunks of it before and grated it into smoothies – that’s certainly undetectable, but a bit fiddly, potentially bloody and only good when I’m having smoothies regularly. Have yet to try just frying them up and ploughing in. That’s the next level!

  2. Mike permalink
    August 27, 2012 4:12 pm

    Mmmmm, one of my favs. When it’s cooked I put it in the oven with sliced potatoes to get baked.
    Chicken livers, chicken stomachs … love them when properly cooked.

    • Catie permalink*
      August 28, 2012 9:58 am

      Yum! I’ll definitely have to try roasting it next time. It does have the beautiful softness of roast lamb, so with the potatoes, it could be unreal! Thanks Mike.

  3. Vanessa Voss permalink
    August 27, 2012 9:52 pm

    I have to admit, those photos make me want to gag. Cooking an eye-fillet steak is an effort for me, so I don’t think I would be able to physically and mentally handle a big slab of cow tongue; but I get your point and I think it’s a good one :)

    I actually grew up eating tongue in cold cuts of meat, and -despite the obvious name “zungenwurst”, which is German for “tongue meat”- didn’t realise I was eating actual pieces of tongue until my late teens.

    This one was a favourite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_cheese Pieces of tongue and other interesting body parts surrounded by gelatin. The jelly part is the best.

    and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zungenwurst Blood sausage with chunks of tongue.

    These days, I don’t eat either of them; but I do like “Blutwurst” (Blood meat, better known as “Black pudding”).
    :)

    • Catie permalink*
      August 28, 2012 10:00 am

      Is it weird that I sometimes crave black pudding? Congealed blood really does it for me. (Hello inner serial killer!)

      Yeah, the tongue was pretty gag-worthy, but also fascinating and beautiful, in a way. We are both coming from vego backgrounds though, so I totally understand the ick factor.

      • Catie permalink*
        August 28, 2012 10:02 am

        P.p.s. Head cheese and that other meat conglomerate look INSANE! That’s definitely a whole other world of offal/awful delights.

      • notesonwellness permalink
        August 29, 2012 2:42 pm

        haha not weird at all…at least not to me. I’m surprised I don’t have a vampire fetish considering I love the taste of blood. My dad buys this really yummy tasting black pudding from a german/european style butchery down in Kirrawee, and one day while I was staying at his place I just went berserk and ate a shitload (all) of it. And he had a fair bit in his fridge. Sorry, dad. I can’t be trusted in a house with black pudding.

      • August 29, 2012 2:44 pm

        ^^^ notesonwellness is me (why’d it change my name? grrr)

  4. August 28, 2012 8:31 am

    Great post, Catie. We are definitely still friends. I has no clever recipes, but it reminds me of that dude in Masterchef Australia, Chis Badenoch who did his darndest to spread the good word of nose-to-tail approaches to food. He has a book called The Entire Beast that could help us newbies – ? The man also has a beer fettish, which is kinda cute.

    • Catie permalink*
      August 28, 2012 10:03 am

      Glad you withstood the lecture Megan!

      I do remember Chris being pro pig-head and such. At the time, we all thought he was batty. How the offal-laden tides have turned! Will check out his book for sure!

  5. August 29, 2012 9:35 pm

    I can (now) thankfully say that I was fed (slow-cooked) beef tongue as a young’in (though I think I did ashamedly refuse at first).

    • Catie permalink*
      August 31, 2012 9:21 pm

      A very cultured (and adventurous) young whipper snapper!

  6. August 31, 2012 10:51 am

    Holybeejebus! Have only just got around to commenting but don’t worry, this post has been in my mind all week (I just can’t get the picture of that big floppy tongue out of my head). You’re hellishly game, trust you to take nose-to-tail to the next level! I’ll stick to my marrow and occasional crumbed fried brains, mmmmm ;)
    PS loving the steady influx of great posts in my inbox!

    • August 31, 2012 10:51 am

      It’s so big! I can’t get over it haha.

    • Catie permalink*
      August 31, 2012 9:34 pm

      You’re not the only one who did a tongue double-take. Quite the oversized slug of an appendage. Game? Perhaps just desperate for cheap cuts of meat!

Trackbacks

  1. A breakfast frittata, and post-tongue debrief. « Head Plant Health

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