Things we don't eat much any more
"if you’re a nation with a dairy industry, you really should eat veal." Matthew Evans
This is a lucky dip post. The book, as you can see, is from Robert Carrier. It's one of a series of five books, each of which I suspect is a selection from Great Dishes of the World and The Robert Carrier Cookbook. He was a bit of a cheat like that.
And the page I turned to? On the left veal and on the right liver. And I recoiled from both. For slightly different reasons.
First the veal. When Carrier wrote his Great Dishes of the World, and all the other books and recipe cards of that era, the orientation was probably towards the French and the Italians, both of whom ate a lot of veal. There was a whole chapter on veal in both of those early books. By the time he got to his Great New Dishes of the World, which may have been his last book, there was just one recipe for veal.
In between I think the world had learnt of the somewhat barbaric conditions under which calves were raised for veal. I mean they were baby animals, kept in indoor pens away from their mothers and fed powdered milk. Probably pumped full of hormones as well. Then killed when very young - still babies - for our pleasure. The paler the meat the better. If it wasn't pale it wasn't veal. Indeed I must have cooked veal every now and then, because I remember thinking that what the Australians sold as veal wasn't really veal because it was dark pink, pale red, however you want to describe it. I believe it was year old cattle.
Then as we all grew more conscious of the bad side of eating meat, from health, environmental, and humane points of view, veal dropped out of consumption somewhat I think. Unless you were eating Osso buco, Vitello tonnato or Veal Schnitzel that is. Most likely in a restaurant.
To many of us the thought of eating baby cattle was repugnant - although as Matthew Evans points out we don't seem to mind eating lamb or suckling pig. I'm not going to look into it now, but I suspect that lamb is actually not that young, (maybe I am completely wrong). Besides it's pretty expensive. And suckling pig is a bit of an ethnic speciality not generally available. Ditto for kid.
However, perhaps we should think again. Matthew Evans puts the case for eating veal on the SBS website, as a humane option, as does Anthony Puharich - a veal specialist butcher on the Good Food website. Well humane if you are a meat eater. Obviously if you are a vegetarian or a vegan for humane/ethical reasons it is not. The problem is the dairy industry:
"400,000 bull calves [are] born in Australia each year as a byproduct of the dairy industry. Some calves will be kept for breeding, but the vast majority are being wasted as an alternative source of high-quality protein because the dairy industry doesn't know what to do with them." Anthony Puharich - Good Food
I actually saw another article that said the number was nearer 700,00. And because the dairy industry has no use for these male calves, they are very frequently killed when only a few days old, some a tiny bit older, but their meat is pretty much useless. Evans and Puharich - and several others too, argue that if you raised the calves until around 5 months old, feeding them on pasture, then you would have perfect veal - rosé veal it's called as it isn't the same as the pen raised white veal of Europe. And veal is expensive too, so you would think it's a no-brainer for the dairy farmers to have a sideline in veal.
"So if you drink milk, if you eat cheese; if you like yoghurt, or butter, or ice-cream, or mascarpone like I do, it’s incumbent upon you to help make the industry more viable, and more responsible. And to that end, if you care about the lives of the animals that are born into that system, you probably should eat more veal." Matthew Evans
Which made me think again. Not that I am going to see much veal in my supermarket anytime soon. The closest I will get is either veal mince or veal and pork mince. Maybe obtained from those really baby calves. I shall have to wait until I visit the Queen Vic Market again before I will be able to find veal. Food for thought though.
And liver on the other page. I used to eat liver - lamb's liver that is. Lamb's fry it's called in Australia, which is a rather coy way of not actually calling a spade a spade as it were. When I was growing up we had little money, and rationing meant that there was little meat available anyway. Maybe you got more for your ration stamps if you bought offal. Anyway we used to eat kidneys - in steak and kidney pie or pudding - I was never a huge fan of kidneys. They were occasionally served as part of what was called a mixed grill as well. Then we had roast stuffed hearts as well. Lamb's hearts - and I really rather liked them. I think they are considered to be pet food here. Indeed I just checked for recipes and they do seem to be a purely British thing.
Liver we ate with bacon and onions, braised in a a thickish English style gravy, and although they were not really my favourite food of all time, I did quite like it. The bacon helped. Indeed I used to cook it occasionally - with the addition of spinach to the mix. I'm not sure where I got that from. I'm really not sure why I stopped cooking it. Somewhere or other - maybe in France - I came across calve's liver, but I don't think I have ever cooked it. It's another classic Italian dish though isn't it? You can't buy that at Coles either.
All that other offal I have never been able to come at, although I suppose sausages used to be made with intestines, and faggots - another British dish that I used to like used caul to encase them didn't they? Tripe is a northern English thing, and brains just don't get eaten in Britain as far as I know. I could never come at them anyway.
I suppose we have all become a bit precious, or at the very least, hypocritical about offal. If we eat the meat, why not eat the offal after all? And the Europeans do of course in all manner of ways. Foie gras anyone? There are of course, some high end chefs who promote it but that means that the offal becomes a delicacy and therefore expensive and so 'ordinary' people like my mother just wouldn't be able to afford it anyway. When you used to buy whole chicken you usually got a little packet of the giblets with it so that you could add it to the stock you made from the carcass. You never get that now. Where does it go? Into pet food? Into chicken liver paté? Into mince?
So maybe I should eat veal? Well if I could get it. The two different roasting recipes on my lucky dip page certainly looked pretty tempting. And Wiener schnitzel is a guilty pleasure. I don't think I've ever eaten Vitello tonnato, and Osso buco just looks too complicated.