Halloween 2014 has come and gone, but one tale from the spookiest day of the year involves a butcher shop owner who invented perhaps the creepiest meal of the year.
The tale involves the Meat Market, a specialty butcher shop in Great Barrington, Mass., a small town in the western part of the state not far from the border with New York, offers its rural costumes an interesting “holiday-themed” reason to expand their meat-eating.
The “Offal Dinner,” as it’s called, isn’t anything like most other Halloween celebrations. No bobbing for apples. No colored candy corn. Nothing edible that an adult might be caught “stealing” from the kids after an evening of trick-or-treating.
Instead, according to a story on iBerkshires.com, Meat Market entrepreneur-proprietor Jeremy Stanton presents an annual farm-to-table, six-course tasting dinner — featuring animal parts most people would never load into their shopping carts, much less have any serious desire to sample, much less order as appetizers at even the most exotic of restaurants.
For example, the Offal Dinner menu includes:
- Deviled kidneys
- Pickled tongue
- Fried gizzards
- Hearts on a stick
Gotta be honest: I’ve never eaten any of those “treats,” on Halloween or any other occasion. But maybe I should have, and not just to in response to a fear factor challenge.
Give Stanton credit for pegging a unique promotional event around the one holiday on the calendar when even grown-ups are allowed to “go wild,” where we all depart from our “normal” personalities, dress in costume, stay in character and behave in ways that would be considered inappropriate the other 364.
It’s one thing to espouse locally grown food, even to purchase meat products direct from farmers or producers. But even people who try to source their meat from livestock raised close to home — and I’m one of them—rarely fill their freezers with liver, hearts, tongue, kidneys.
The Meat Market prides itself on being a “nose-to-tail butcher shop,” a concept that typically requires a re-thinking of what we consider nutritious, an evolution to which Stanton’s customer are introduced every Oct. 31.
Going whole hog
One of the most prestigious cooking schools in the country, The Culinary Institute, has embraced the whole animal philosophy in recent years. One of its chef-instructors from California, Lars Kronmark, recently won the regional Cochon 555, a culinary contest in which five local chefs butcher a heritage-breed pig to create dishes from every part of the animal.
One of the main goals of the Cochon 555 tour each year is to promote “slow food” prepared with respect for the animal, a philosophy that is shared by the CIA and taught to students on all four of its campuses.
“It shows more respect when you use the entire animal in a professional kitchen,” Kronmark said. “Using all of its parts to create fantastic dishes is much more ethical than using just the loin, or other cuts that we are used to cooking.”
Kronmark was given a mulefoot heritage breed pig to butcher, and his winning plate included an entrée called “Burning Love,” a childhood comfort food from his native Denmark made with onion bacon sauce, with an Offal-and -All-Spice Sauce, both served over mashed potatoes. According to an Institute news release, his team also created “a house-cured mortadella smorrebrood, roasted and stuffed trotters, hard-cider-cured mule foot ham cooked in straw, and St. Croix pork fritters with beet jam.”
I’m not sure what all that is but it apparently impressed the judges — and it all came from a single animal. Which brings to mind the argument often invoked by consumer advocates whenever a ground beef recall is initiated for food-safety reasons, or as a promotional message by the alternative agriculture community to tout the superiority of its processes and products: You’re more secure if the meat you’re eating came from only one animal.
But ideally, it’s the entire animal, and not just at a culinary creepfest on annual All Hallows Eve.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.