It used to be that if you wanted to find that familiar diagram
of a bovine, carved up with dotted lines into "rump," "loin,"
"plate," "brisket", you'd find yourself heading back to the Joy of Cooking, which was
the last word in pretty much everything. Nowadays, the Joy of
Cooking--for all its many virtues--isn't the last word in anything,
and primal-cut books abound.
Although many of us are
fascinated by whole-animal, nose-to-tail preparation, not all that
many of us are actually doing it. Yet somehow the bar has
been raised, and knowing a good deal more detail about your meat
and where it comes from (and what does "round" mean anyway?) seems
to matter more than it did before.
Chickens, of course, have been commanding their own cookbooks
for decades. They've been evolving, though. The older
ones offer endless variations on what you can do with boneless
breast. The most recent ones start with incubating the egg,
and what sort of feed you should be using in your homemade chicken
The pig may have the most devoted following, with every year
bringing another offering or two: Pork and Sons, Bruce
Aidell's Complete Book of Pork, The Whole
and if you want to stretch it, A Girl and her Pig.
And that's not even counting the many barbecue books that are
essential odes to the pig too.
Perhaps the clearest indication
that the single-animal cookbook has arrived is Goat: Meat, Milk,
Cheese, by mainstream cookbook team Mark Scarbrough and Bruce
Weinstein. And while many, including myself, may not have
access to goat meat or milk, it seemed perfectly natural for
somebody to devote an entire book to the subject.
How about you? What's your favorite animal, on the table
or in the book? And while we're at it, what's your favorite
way to serve it forth?