A bit of bone from my man
One of the best things about being married is sharing the things you love with the person you love most. Tony and I have been married fifteen years now and we still get to share new things every day.
Take a few months ago, for example. Tony and I were camped out on the couch watching Tony Bourdain’s Cook’s Tour. It was the episode where he goes to St. John restaurant headed up by Fergus Henderson. The restaurant is dedicated to eating foods that are no longer socially acceptable like pig trotters, tongue and tripe. As a starter, Tony Bourdain gets a serving of bone marrow with parsley salad. My hubby looks over at me and says, “You know, I really love marrow. I haven’t had any in twenty years. It’s really hard to find now unless you order it special.”
Fifteen years, and I never knew. I was devastated. When I got married, I learned to cook dishes I knew my hubby loved: pot roast, lentil soup and fried rice among others. But not once did he ever mention that he loved marrow. So I picked up a copy of Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson and learned to make marrow bones.
My only drawback was finding marrow bones. Schuman’s does not carry marrow bones. I finally was able to find them through Meijer’s. Turns out that they get them precut and vacuum packed, so I had to take what I could get. I am in the process of finding someone who can customer cut the bones for me. In the meantime, the precut bones will have to do.
It’s funny that it is so hard to find bones in the butcher shops, considering every animal is full of them. We slaughter about 27 million cattle every year, but you hardly ever see bones in the meat case or on the dinner plate. I have to wonder how much of the “boneless meat syndrome” is a result of the Great Depression and WWII. I know, I know, you think this is some hair brained notion by some wacko.
But consider this – my parents both grew up during the Great Depression. My mother endured rationing during the war. They both went to great lengths to make sure that their children would not have to endure the hardships that they did. We only got the best of everything. It was the same with all the other kids who had parents from that generation – most never had to raise animals for meat or home can vegetables and fruit. The Baby Boomers were removed from the nasty dirty world of food production.
Also, with women entering the work force during the war and in ever increasing numbers afterwards, there was a need for quick cooking protein sources. Women who were working outside the home no longer had the time to cook large cuts of meat. Boneless cuts cook more quickly and eventually, the Boomers and their offspring became accustomed to seeing boneless or nearly boneless meat on the dinner table. Thanks to convenient prepackaged foods and boneless cuts, Gen X became even more detached from what a real dead animal looked like. Unless it was road kill - and that didn’t do anything to improve the image.
Some food writers seem mystified by the fact that most of the American population is turned off by the thought of boney meat. It is what we have become accustomed to. It is what we grew up eating, as right or wrong as that may be. Think of it like music - if you are used to listening to music from Europe based on diatonic scales and then suddenly had to listen to music from China, which is based on pentatonic-diatonic scales- you would say to yourself “what kind of crazy stuff is this?” You can’t just throw boney meat back on the market and expect it to be embraced by a culture that has not been taught how to appreciate it.
Ok, let me put the soap box away and talk about some yummy food.
So anyhow – Tony announced that he really really loved marrow and wanted to have some - some day….and looked at me with those big sad puppy eyes. And off I went on my quest for the rarest thing in meatdom – marrow bones.
Fergus Henderson calls for 3 inch bones and roasting them for 20 minutes. Because my bones were so thin – I just broiled them. I toasted some good bread and made up Henderson’s parsley salad. Tony had misgivings about the salad, but it the perfect way to cut the richness of the fatty marrow. Needless to say - the spark is still in our marriage after fifteen years, with the help of a little bit of bone and some parsley.
I am not going to give you the recipe – mostly because I want you to go get the book and read it. Fergus (yes, I am on a first name basis with him now.) says things like “…lightly chop your parsley, just enough to discipline it…” and “…when you smell it, it will smell quite umpfy.” It’s a great read and an even better eat.