Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ickiness or: is offal particularly awful?

I was at first revolted by this article in today's Age. Adrian Richardson, chef at La Luna in North Carlton, is offering offal in a special sitting called Adrian Cooks Offal (for any Adrian Mole fans like me, this is especially amusing).

The descriptions are, without doubt, a vegan's ickiness. "I do a pig's head brawn, using all the bits and pieces, skin and ears and eyeballs and tongues, cook them down and jelly them. said Mr Richardson. Eeee-ew.

But? Is it more confronting to hear about the uses of parts of an animal's body unusual to us? Is it any less icky than the flesh of a steak? Should it be?

Not to a vegan. Whether it's eyeballs or hooves or brains or a full head or tongue or kidneys or liver or heart or lungs or intestines or rump or chop or breast or thigh or kebab or mince or sausages or parma - it's all the same. None should be eaten and all should incite the same ickiness. That many people recoil from offal but don't think twice about their chicken wings is the product of a lifetime of suppression of the natural ickiness that eating flesh arouses, and the crushing cultural imperative of omnivorous eating.

Perhaps seeing eyes and tongue and ears as they are is the reminder we need that a body is a body is a body. It's not for eating.


steph said...

This is such a huge issue for me. I think part of the reason it was so easy for me to go from considering animals food to considering animals not-food is because I've always been brought up knowing that all animals are food. chicken feet and pig trotters and fish eyes etc, knowing if I bothered I would be eating sea horses and so on. So when I decided I wasn't going to eat one animal, it was easy to refuse all.

RELATEDLY, I hate it when people get on my case (or just on their soap box) about Chinese eating horse and dog etc because HELLO it is all flesh, get over yourselves middle-class first world people. >o(

So in summary: offal is not particularly awful, people are just particularly stupid.

I hope you are not annoyed at my raaring all over your post.

Mandee said...

Yup, it's pretty gross to see him biting on a pig's ear but then all animal flesh is off-putting to me.

Miss T said...

Hey Steph, no not at all; in fact I think you've (and Mandee) encapsulated what I was trying to say. I hate it when people get all grossed out by tongue or offal or something unusual for them - how is it any different to eating a chop? Same goes, as you said, for animals that Western cultures don't eat much of - why would it be ok to eat a lamb but not a dog? I actually think it's a good thing when offal of presented 'as is' if it helps people realise what they are eating instead of being able to hide behind their sausage which looks nothing like an animal. It's all the same thing - an animal's body - so if offal helps people rediscover their ick reaction, then good - they might then tart thinking about their sliced ham too.

I'm Philippa O said...

i agree with steph, if you're going to see animals as a sourse of food there should be no difference between eating a steak and eating the 'less acceptable' parts of an animal's body. those who live in places where maybe veganism isn't a practical or affordable option aren't so precious about what's ok or gross, for them it's a source of protein no matter where it comes from. and yes, for me that notion is disgusting, but it's interesting to think that all those people who balk at the idea of eating offal as they tuck into a meat pie or a hotdog - well guys, here's news: what do you think you've just bitten into!

Miss T said...

Spot on Pip.

I think there's two points coming out of this:

1. If you think it's ok to eat chops, then you shouldn't baulk at eating eyeballs. It's all the same (although obviously you shouldn't eat either!). Refusing to eat tripe or pig's head because it's too 'animal-y' but happily munching a sausage is hypocritical.

2. However, if an omni sees offal and finds it off-putting because they think it's gross or confronting, then hopefully they will make the connection between an animal's organs and their flesh - it's all equally icky.

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