The Whole Beast
Fergus Henderson
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Buy *The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating* online

The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
Fergus Henderson
224 pages
March 2004
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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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 Henderson’s 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. Pig’s ears. Pig’s tails. Pig’s head. Lamb’s tongue. Duck heart. Radish greens. Ok, so the last one isn’t 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 pig’s 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 “normal” 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 Henderson’s loving introduction to each (example: in introducing a recipe for boiled pork belly and lentils, he write “There’s nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerve.”).

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 it’s not hard to see why. Henderson’s passion for eating and cooking is obvious and contagious. Though I’m not sure I’ll be tucking into a pig’s head salad any time soon, he’s at least made me resolve to look twice at radish greens. And that’s something.

© 2004 by Amanda Cuda for Curled Up With a Good Book

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