Restaurants serving cheek, tongue, snout, trotters, tripe or ears don’t tend to have the younger generation jumping for joy.

And who can blame them: Eating habits have changed considerably since our grandparents’ generation. On the one hand, of course, this is something we’ve learned as society has changed, because nowadays we enjoy an abundance of absolutely everything. On the other, it’s a sign of the times. We are champion cherry-pickers, wanting to fulfil our own individual desires, make effective use of our time and only listen to, watch and taste exactly what we want. We are no longer forced to accept things we don’t love – and this also applies to food. Nowadays we’ll only settle for filet, entrecôte and prime ribs.

The wish of protecting resources

None of this makes sense, and it certainly isn’t sustainable. On the contrary: It is a sheer waste. We cooks are well aware of the fact that there are countless other hearty delicacies that it is simply criminal to ignore. But in recent decades, European eating but also culinary culture has lost that fundamental ‘waste not, want not’ attitude. Interestingly, this is in opposition to an entirely different modern trend: people’s ever-increasing desire to eat in a conscious, ecologically justifiable manner that protects resources. Factory farming is frowned upon. Buzzwords like regional, seasonal, biological, sustainable and natural are being bandied about more and more, almost to the point of excess. And despite all this, customers would still rather eat only the ‘nice’ bits of an animal. This shows zero respect to that animal. It is arguably also evidence of double standards. Currently just half of a slaughtered animal will end up on our plates. The other half is used in cosmetics, medicines and animal feed or is exported at giveaway prices.

Fortunately, cooking with the ‘whole animal’ has been making something of a comeback in kitchens for some time now, and has grown into a fine and respectable movement. Many professional chefs and gourmets are raising awareness, using old cooking techniques, creating tantalisingly tasty dishes and making us rethink our eating habits. The initial spark came from Fergus Henderson, a Michelin-starred chef from the United Kingdom with no formal training. Published in 1999, his book Nose to Tail Eating has since achieved cult status. According to the “Nose-to-Tail” principle, all edible parts of an animal should be used for human consumption. This was a fixed anchor point of our culinary tradition for so long; people didn’t need to be told not to be wasteful. Nowadays, it is up to us cooks to remind people of this – and we really should!

Traditional dishes wait to be rediscovered

Any piece of meat can be prepared so that it is tasty and enjoyable. Second cuts, stews, offal: So many traditional dishes from our grandmothers’ time are just waiting to be rediscovered, and there are new creations to be tried. This creates variety on our plates and at the same time protects your bottom line, because dishes can be prepared more economically – simply because everything is used and the ‘gross’ bits are less expensive. We all know that it takes time for people’s habits to change – and our tastes are no exception. But for us cooks – and our guests’ palates – it’s worth a try anyway.

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