Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wasting The Heads

If you think about it, I’m sure that you’ll remember seeing pictures of the old days where someone is proudly bringing a whole roasted animal to the banquet table. Usually, they were calves, pigs or hogs, especially the latter two. Often, such swine would have a whole apple in their mouths as roasted garnishes. If you think a little harder, you may also remember pictures where it was only the head of a hog or pig being served. I assume those were served in homes that couldn’t afford a whole animal.

I’m not sure just why we got so squeamish that we refuse to eat the end of a critter that does the eating. We certainly have no qualms about curing and eating the end of the hog where the poop comes out. Only a hundred years ago, headcheese was still a common food in many homes. In one of the Foxfire books, an elderly lady receives a pig’s head from a neighbor that butchered and is tickled pink with the gift. Of course, the old timers always said that they used every part of the pig but the squeal, with even the feet, tail, ears and mountain oysters all used, along with the intestines, hide and other parts.

I think about such things every year when I see the head of nearly every slain deer laying on the gut-pile for the possums to find. Have you ever noticed how much meat is usually left on the head, and the bit of neck that’s often attached? Plus, there’s the tongue. The brains may not be safe anymore with some of the diseases going around, but they used to be fried up just like squirrel brains. (The brain was my paternal grandfather’s favorite part of the squirrel, I’ve been told.)

I suspect a couple deer heads would provide a good meal for a family that didn’t have much else. I don’t think I’d let my kids go hungry over squeamishness. Even now, we eat more head parts than we think. I’ve seen “beef lips,” tongue and udders mentioned as ingredients in hotdogs and bologna and, frankly, that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the chemicals and salt with which such products are loaded.

Fish heads are another wasted resource. I used to pull out the fins and cut the body loose from the head just behind the gills on the panfish I used to catch and fry. Sometimes, I’d follow the example of others and even cut the tail off. Eventually, I learned not to bother removing the fins OR the head. I fry them whole and get the little piece of meat that usually gets wasted at the back of the head, plus, the jaw muscle on each side is worth eating, sort of like the claw meat in a large crawdad or small lobster. The top fin now guides my fork as to where to start rolling off the meat, plus, I eat right back to the tail, while I’ve seen a lot of folks whack a good-sized bite of meat off with the tail.

Personally, I enjoy the extra food and hate to see such things wasted. However, I suspect if hunger ever gets really common in this country, we may once again see fish cooked whole, ox and hog heads roasted and head cheese made in home kitchens. © 2015


Sunnybrook Farm said...

They don't waste anything, people don't realize what they are eating when chomping on a hot dog!

deborah harvey said...

my daddy came from a poor family.
once in a while someone would give his mother a hog's head.
here comes the head cheese. he also loved scrapple, though i'm not sure what that is made of.
they were so delighted to get the hog's head!
head cheese and scrapple, which may be the same thing, always remained his favorites.
used to be able to buy scrapple at the butcher's counter. haven't seen it for decades.

that was a time when he and his brothers and sisters had something to eat. food was so scarce.
he once made the comment,' possum is the greasiest meat i ever ate.'.
i was stunned. i didn't know possums were edible!!

Chickenmom said...

If you ever get hungry enough, you'll eat anything. Might have to think twice about the "mountain oysters", though!

Lady Locust said...

Just look how much food folks aren't squeamish about gets waisted. Head meat is good - nice and tender. Many folks don't even bother with the ribs of a deer let alone the head, claiming there isn't enough meat to bother with them.

Gorges Smythe said...

That's even truer than I've insinuated, SF. I watched a video of a conveyor in a hotdog production line once. It was disgusting, and I'm not squeamish.

Well, dh, I suspect most things are edible if we're hungry enough.

I've never tried them yet either, Cm! lol

That's very true, LL. I cook the ribs in a crock pot with BBQ sauce and eat it sort of like pulled pork.

Sixbears said...

Some parts of world make use of all the fish parts to make a fermented fish sauce. It keeps for a long time with no refrigeration. Waste not, want not.

Gail said...

My husband remembers well when he discovered Mom loved the brains of a squirrel when he did a head shot. He never made that mistake again.

Another thing Hubby learned is shotguns are not for hunting. It is a waste of meat and the shot are a pain to pick out. I was shocked. I told him if he couldn't kill with a twenty-two, he didn't need to be hunting. Shotguns are varmint guns in my opinion. I have converted him to rifles and he's a pretty crack shot now.

I love Hog's head cheese or souse...did I spell it right. Sometimes the groceries have them but not often.

I was worried yesterday. My internet or computer was funky and would not allow me to access your blog...stranger things do happen. Today I traveled here easily.

Wishing you a blessed day.

deborah harvey said...

you spelled 'souse' correctly.
thanks for the word, i couldn't remember it.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yes, Sixbears, and some of the northern natives bury them next to the permafrost and let them ferment a few months before eating them.

Gail, I suspect modern "souse" is nothing like the homemade type, but I don't know for sure, since I've never eaten it.

I'd forgotten the word, too, dh. I remember my grandmother making mince-meat, too.