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Friday, August 31, 2007

The Carnivore's Dilemma: Incanto, Meatopia And Offal

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2007 at 1:28 PM


In a city overflowing with carnivorous culinary delights, as well as many devout vegetarians and vegans, the question of food ethics never strays very far from our conversations. Where should we draw the line when it comes to animal cruelty? Should veal and foie-gras be considered any more cruel than, say, your average roasted chicken?

SF Covers pointed us to a fascinating article in The Atlantic called Hard To Swallow, in which writer B.R. Myers attacks the rise of "food Idolatry." Parading as a review of Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, Myers' well-written, cranky and puritanical manifesto accuses meat-loving foodies and food writers of blindly luxuriating in the pain of animals and displaying "hostility to the very language of moral values."

Myers' argument is damn near unassailable, assuming you plan never to eat a hamburger again. But what about the rest of us amoral, decadent, bloodthirsty assholes? If Myers' had his way, we'd probably all be knee-deep in shit at the local slaughterhouse getting an unpleasant education on how our future hamburgers and pork chops came to be -- which isn't such a bad idea. But in the end, it probably wouldn't stop many of us from eating meat, at least not for long.

We wonder what Myers would think about the recent rise in popularity of offal and organ meat in fancy-schmancy American restaurants.

For the uninitiated, offal -- literally "off fall" -- refers to all the parts of the animal that will fall out when it's butchered, and the term has now expanded to include the heart, liver, lungs, tails, feet and head, among others. Guts basically.

On one hand, digging into something like a roasted suckling pig head would seem to at least raise your awareness about the food's origin -- those little piggy eyes staring out at you. On the other hand, does munching on something so identifiable -- not to mention young -- display even more blatant disregard for the animal's pain?

We're thinking specifically of things like New York City's recent Meatopia IV: Slaughter of the Innocents, known as the "Woodstock of edible animals," where copious amounts of crunchy, fatty, succulent infant animal flesh are celebrated. Watch video of the event here. In the Bay Area we have -- most notably -- Incanto restaurant, where Chef Chris Cosentino proudly serves up all kinds of innards, including kidney, heart and liver.

Below you'll find links to the cached version of Myers' article. For more about offal and organ meats in San Francisco, check out Chowhound's discussion thread. In the meantime, all this thinking is making us hungry. Nasty bits, anyone?

Hard To Swallow:

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Brian Bernbaum


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