Here’s to the nasty bits

I get really geeked out when chefs give me a peek behind the apron, an insight to get my palate ready. 

So, much thanks to B29 Streatery Chef Greg Lamm for sending me this Tweet DM the night before Boise’s monthly Food Truck Rally…“We’ve got crispy pig’s feet ‘Hot Dog’ on the truck for the rally tomorrow… Gotta let a fellow ‘nasty bits’ peep know what’s going on.”

Needless to say, I had to try the dog. It. Was. Amazing. Succulent and soft with a crunchy shell. Trotter elevated. Fellow foodies at the rally – including the talented Trey McIntyre and John-Michael  from TMP – were also effusive in their love for B29′s take on the dog. It wasn’t my first time enjoying trotter. I had made the plunge to try it out when at Thomas Keller’s Buchon (here’s a fellow foodies’ take on the Bouchon Trotter).
But admittedly, the elegance of the trotter dog (as I affectionately remember it, but Chef Lamm had a much more better description on the Streatery menu) was not quite as fantastic as the blog post that led paid homage to the dog.

The post ‘Ode to Pig’s Feet’ is probably the first foodie blog to really get me thinking. About what it is to pay credence to sustainability, to qualify yourself as a locavore, to truly respect the ingredients. Some of my favorite nuggets:

One of the largest hurdles to converting to a sustainable agricultural model is how to make it affordable across all economic models.  I suggest a very simple solution:  eat feet.  Eat ears.  Eat noses and tongues.  Eat the other 1/3 of the animal that is currently going in the trash or to animal feed.  All of these off cuts have strong culinary traditions behind them, and not just in “ethnic foods”.  We as Americans have very strange concepts of what is an acceptable foodstuff.  Americans will eat fast food, but say “yuck” to ears and feet grown by local, sustainable and organic farmers. 

If we as consumers eat the off cuts of our local and sustainable products, it will do two things: continue the demand for the product but it will also help to moderate the price of the premium end.  The vast majority of farmers are not gouging us on loins, chops and premium cuts because they can.  They are recouping the losses of offering a premium product that isn’t being fully utilized.  And if they are gouging us, we will know.  Then we can shift our purchasing power to a producer who is able to moderate pricing.  It’s a win-win.  

This doesn’t only apply to pigs.  We as Americans drastically underutilize our beef, poultry and other livestock.  We buy beets at The Capital City Market and then throw out the tops.  Then we buy swiss chard to serve with our beets.  FYI – Swiss Chard is a non root producing variety of beet.  

We need to start eating feet as a nation.  We need to start eating hearts, cheeks, liver, ears, and tongue.  Eat weeds.  Eat tops.  As Anthony Bourdain puts it, “eat the nasty bits.”  Our current eating habits are just pushing the ideal of sustainable eating further towards the few and away from the many.

Cooks have to step it up.  We have to offer these products, and prepare them with enough skill that an adventurous skeptic will become an avid fan.  This requires dedication, a capital investment and practice.  Tongue isn’t expensive, but screw it up 4 or 5 times and it starts to add up.  It really adds up on the time end, where proper preparation can take hours or days.

This isn’t the final solution, but it will progress us towards the goal of sustainability. 

Well worth the read – and the commitment to embrace more of the ‘nasty bits.’

- Jess


  1. Mary Korte says:

    Yay for nasty bits!!! Amazing that people will willingly pay money to suck down the chemical cocktail that is a McDonald’s Strawberry shake or eat all of the nasty bits if they are ground into hotdog filling, stuffed in a pillow of white bread and slathered with rancid oils and MSG. I have done it myself and I must say it is pure IGNORance. I will happily drink the refreshing purple smoothie loaded with beet tops and unpeeled carrots that is my breakfast this morning and later today I will boil up the corned (grass fed) beef tongue that is soaking in my fridge and eat the ‘taco’ salad for lunch with the spicy meat topping made from garden scraps and venison. So Yay for the nasty bits and the nasty people that eat them . :)

  2. B29Streatery says:

    Mary, you’re my hero! I do have a soft spot for the McD’s strawberry shake, though. Considering the ingredients, probably multiple soft spots.

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