I like to consider myself a pretty adventurous eater. In fact, my yen for foods containing ingredients like anchovies, oyster or liver has raised many an eyebrow among my dinner companions. But after reading Fergus Hendersonís oddly compelling cookbook The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, I realized something.
In the world of adventurous dining, I am a rank amateur.
Henderson, a famed British chef, offers up a bevy of recipes including things that I have not only never eaten, but have not ever considered eating. Pigís ears. Pigís tails. Pigís head. Lambís tongue. Duck heart. Radish greens. Ok, so the last one isnít that exotic, but whenever I buy radishes, the greens always seem too sandy to be edible. The insinuation that they might make a delightful salad just floored me.
But Henderson describes his ingredients with such loving care that they not only sound edible, but glorious. A recipe for fried pigís tails made me long to know what they might taste like (Though I admit to being a bit put off by the instruction to use a Bic razor to shave the hair off the tails. Pardon my immaturity, but ew.).
Henderson is truly a pure gourmet, one who believes in leaving nothing behind. Let others treat dining as a pastime. He treats it as an extreme sport.
Yet not everything in The Whole Beast is so daunting. He also includes more ďnormalĒ but equally intriguing recipes, such as a salad of artichoke, red onion and olive. The book also has recipes for a number of cooking basics, such as stocks, mayonnaise, aioli and chutney. Part of the fun of reading the recipes is Hendersonís loving introduction to each (example: in introducing a recipe for boiled pork belly and lentils, he write ďThereís nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerve.Ē).
A reverent preface by the usually caustic chef and writer Anthony Bourdain claims the book has been treasured in the food community for some time (it has been available in the United Kingdom for several years), and itís not hard to see why. Hendersonís passion for eating and cooking is obvious and contagious. Though Iím not sure Iíll be tucking into a pigís head salad any time soon, heís at least made me resolve to look twice at radish greens. And thatís something.