Aileen Janee is the sports editor for Ethic News.
By AILEEN JANEE CORPUS
Pig cheeks, oxtails, and chicken feet–all seen as disgusting pieces of the very animals we eat, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say.
Offal is all of these things. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, offal is “the waste or by-product of a process.” By associating the less used pieces of meat as waste, there is already a negative connotation to these other parts of livestock.
When I was in one of my classes, we were talking about Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and the teacher branched off to talk about how pieces of meat including pig cheeks or tails are undesirable.
In most other countries outside of America, they use the “undesirable” and “unwanted” pieces of meat.
As a Filipino, there is a traditional dish called sisig and it is made up of the unwanted pieces of meat, pig cheeks, ears and more, and kare-kare which is another traditional dish usually made with peanut butter and oxtail. These are delicious dishes, and I pride myself on being a Filipino.
Other delicious dishes include chicken feet that one can find at Chinese dimsum restaurants, but when I was watching an old Disney show with my siblings, they used chicken feet and called them monkey knuckles in a sketch making fun of microwave dinners.
Although the conversation on chicken beaks making up chicken nuggets most likely only lasted a few minutes, a few confused minutes. I couldn’t help
Starting with “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, a novel originally written to expose the exploitation of immigrants coming into America, Americans started to have a negative view on offal.
A part of the stigma can come from back in the day when good cuts of meat were associated with the rich and the unwanted parts with the poor. Logically, the impoverished would try to make their dish as delicious as possible with whatever they have.
Things have obviously changed from the Progressive Era: the food and drug act and necessary nutrition facts. The making and processing of our foods is now better.
Even the local Costco is starting to sell beef tripe and ox tails; near the meat section, I saw a few people piling up and looking at some large white meat, so when I went over to check it out, it was beef tripe, and right next to it was oxtail. I was filled with joy to see offal in a place more accessible to people.
Food culture is culture. Attacking someone’s food is attacking their identity and their culture, whether or not it is intentional, but that article is for another time.
For the time being, normalizing offal allows people from multitudes of countries to have pride in their cultures and not have to feel put down or what their eating is disgusting simply because it is not what the majority indulges in.
America is known as the big melting pot so it should be just that: a big melting pot with a variety of delicious cultures.