There is an old saying about the Chinese that they eat every part of the duck except the quack. This is laudable, I think, in all the ways we are told it matters. It means no waste, for starters. Once upon a time the Western world had the same attitude to waste – especially in the case of expensive animal protein. There are recipes in old cookery books for roast udder, for blood pie, calves’ feet, pigs face and cock’s combs – amongst other delicacies – but they would be hard to find in a modern book.
On re-thinking, we probably still eat all those things, as well as meat mechanically removed from carcasses (much more efficient than the boning knife) - but they are nicely disguised in sausages and luncheon meats and so on. I guess the difference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ is an aesthetic one.
It may be that we don’t eat the pith of animals now, on account of mad-cow disease. The pith is the spinal cord. Assume it is disease free. Fancy a little pith pudding?
To make a Pith Pudding.
Take a quantity of the pith of an ox, and let it lie all night in water to soak out the blood; the next morning strip it out of the skin, and beat it with the back of a spoon in orange-water till it is as fine as pap; then take three pints of thick cream, and boil in it two or three blades of mace, a nutmeg quartered, a stick of cinnamon; then take half a pound of the best Jordan almonds, blanched in cold water, then beat them with a little of the cream, and as it dries put in more cream; and when they are all beaten, strain the cream from them to the pith; then take the yolks of ten eggs, the white of but two, beat them very well, and put them to the ingredients: take a spoonful of grated bread, or Naples biscuit, mingle all these together, with half a pound of fine sugar, and the marrow of four large bones, and a little salt; fill them in a small ox or hog's guts, or bake in a dish, with a puff-pafte under it, and round the edges.
The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Hannah Glasse (1784)
Quotation for the Day.
When it comes to Chinese food I have always operated under the policy that the less known about the preparation the better. ... A wise diner who is invited to visit the kitchen replies by saying, as politely as possible, that he has a pressing engagement elsewhere.