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Respect Food: Respect Life

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When trolling our local markets we gaze upon case after case of beautifully butchered produce. It is easy to forget that every piece of meat, chicken, pork, or fish was once a living, breathing animal. I am not a vegetarian but it is extraordinarily easy for me to understand why people abstain from eating animal protein. If we choose to eat meat, we should be cognizant of where our food comes from and how it was treated. Invariably, when I start talking about organic foods or sustainable fish, someone will object. They remind me that they live in a part of the world where they are just fortunate to eat. I understand more than you know. My entire family emigrated from Cuba in the early seventies. Under the communist Castro regime, food is rationed monthly and people struggle to feed their families. Fortunately for me, I live in Miami, in the United States, and I choose to demand more of my purchasing habits.

Furthermore, as cooks, we control every piece of produce we serve. I have witnessed countless “chefs” let their concentration wane while cooking and ruin product. If these “chefs” had killed the cow themselves, would they squander it? My guess is no, there would not be that disconnect. The biggest sin a cook can commit is to waste product. My friends, there is absolutely no honor in that!

Using every part of any foodstuff is another way to pay your respects. Offal meat, the innards of animals, is rarely seen in American kitchens. When we go to the market and scoop up a lovely filet mignon, we must realize that the animal from which that came had many other parts. Thumbing your nose at offal meat is nonsensical, arrogant, and improvident. Anyone can cook a filet mignon; no inherent skill is needed. Now, the true hallmark of a talented cook is taking something that would be thrown away and making a delicious dish from it. Lastly, organ meat is more affordable than prime cuts. So learn to cook offal properly and make a 5-star dinner for a fraction of the price.

Alaskan Pacific Cod Dish 

Since many of you good people are dead-set against cooking organ meat, the course pictured above is an example using fish. I purchased a delightfully sustainable Pacific cod from Alaska, caught via long-line. For comprehensive information on sustainable fish please visit The Monterey Bay Aquarium website. My main goal when conceptualizing this dish was to avoid waste. I started by butchering the fish into four parts: the head, bones, and the two fillets. The head and bones were used to infuse the East Indian lemongrass broth. After portioning the fillets into three-ounce segments, I was left with odd-sized bit pieces. Normally these bit pieces would go in the trash. However, I made a flavorsome cod ravioli and properly honored the fish that gave its life for my sustenance. This dish has cod in the broth, cod in the ravioli, and the pan-seared cod fillet on top. These types of courses are most gratifying for the mind, body, and soul.

Thomas Keller, one of America’s greatest living chefs, has been a vital influence on my attitude towards food. His book, The French Laundry Cookbook, is an amazing tutorial on haute cuisine. The two themes that resonated most with me were taking the time to artfully present every plate and relating to the product used. On page 205 of the book, Chef Keller tells a story about the importance of rabbits. While working in a small restaurant in Catskill, New York, he was exposed to countless remarkable livestock found in the Northern part of the state. He was able to work with veal, pigeons, pigs’ ears, cockscombs, and even duck testicles. All right, that last bit was disgusting; I personally have never worked with those! At any rate, his curiosity was piqued to the extent that he asked his rabbit purveyor to teach him to kill the rabbits. Long story short, he describes the impression that killing, skinning, and butchering the animals himself made upon him. To this day, he uses that story to impress upon his cooks to show consideration for the ingredients they work with.

Forgetting that the steak, pork chop, chicken wing, or grilled fish fillet on your plate was once a living, breathing animal is easy to do. Take pride in knowing how the animal you consume was raised and treated. Organic produce are born and raised with respect and dignity. Grazing on pristine pastures, they roam free in the sunshine, with unrestricted access to clean food and water. Animals give their lives for our nourishment; at the very least let’s pay tribute to them.

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About Lazaro Cooks

  • LazaroCooks!

    Kate…Thank you very much!

  • Congratulations on being Writer of the Day!

  • Jenn,

    Thank you, I think your questions are exactly what we need. There are no concrete answers. However, without dialogue nothing will be accomplished.

    As to when and why offal feel out of favor, I do not know. What I can say is that it is quite unfashionable these days. People just won’t go near them.

    I only hope that we realize the error of our ways, and attempt to mitigate the waste we perpetrate on a daily basis.

    Thank you for your support and insight.

  • Hi Lazaro,
    Great writing!

    I was watching on television some time ago about how in the early 1900’s, eating offal was quite common in the United States. Then I think some time after the war, something happened (my mind is swiss cheese after work, sorry) and all of a sudden these innards were no longer served at home on the dinner table.
    So, how to solve the problem of supply and demand? Buying food in styrofoam packaging wrapped in cellophane?

    Recently, PETA attacked actress Eliza Dushku for having gone hunting. If anything, isn’t her way of procuring meat more “humane”? Most likely, there’ll be less waste.

    As people in a developed countries, we simply need to exercise our purchasing power rights more effectively.

    Thanks for sharing/sorry for always having more questions than answers…

  • Prima…Thank you for the support.

  • Lazaro, great article once again. I totally agree with your no waste policy. I am a believer in trying to use all the food that I buy/grow before it spoils. Some of my greatest recipes were created when I was cleaning out my fridge/pantry of items that I needed to use before they went bad.

    I love your cod dish, I think it was great how you used so much of the fish and didn’t waste half of it, basically.

  • Marly…The saddest part of your friends story is how ignorant the person is. We really need to spread the word. I think people need to be awakened. Thank you for your comments and support.


  • What a thoughtful, well-written post. I had a work colleague who went to lunch with me once. She ordered a chicken salad and then (knowing that I’m a vegan) she proclaimed proudly to me after the meal, “See I didn’t even eat much of the chicken!” I was saddened by that because I knew that meat was going in the trash. I will tell all my meat-eating friends to read this post. If you’re going to eat meat, be respectful and use all of it. Thank you for such a great post!

  • Deana…I think we really need to educate people on organic and taking the time to research where our food comes from.

    Thank you for caring and commenting on my article.


  • Lisa…Thank you so much for commenting on the article. judging by your fantastic blog…the Cookng sisters can cook anything.

    I feel that if people learn to properly cook offal then they would not fear it and discover how tasty it can be.


  • Lazaro, much respect for you:)
    I totally agree with you and for you to share + remind others how our eating life style can be easily manipulated. I feel some people do not explore due their knowledge and then there’s chef’s like you that shares that. Thank you!
    We sisters eat, cook everything or at least try 🙂

  • Great article. I saw a little bit of Jamie Oliver’s show and there were kids who didn’t know what a tomato was until he said ketchup! I am a huge believer in sustainable and humane…. I call factory meat misery meat. I agree with you when you say you want to eat meat that came from an animal that had a good life until the end of it or vegetables grown on healthy soil and not chemicals. If we eat that way and make people more aware of what the real cost of cheap food is… the better this world will be… and tastier too!

  • Mike…I agree that waste is a huge problem. However, it is never too late to start. People just need to be more aware. Thank you for commenting on my article.


  • Sam…Thank you for the support. You are so right about people not having that connection to where the food comes from. If you grew up on a farm, you’d certainly feel it.

    I agree that cook offal almost seems like a lost art of sorts. Thomas Keller’s story of the importance of rabbits is heartbreaking and educational


  • Denise…You are a true gourmand by knowing how to cook tripe. I do not understand the snobbery towards offal either. Great call on the foie gras…they will sit there and wax poetic. Thank you for your support and insightful comments.


  • Lazaro, this is a very thought provoking article and I enjoyed it very much. I suspect most of us never think of where our food comes from unless we grew up on a farm. Older cookbooks used to have recipes for tripe, sweetbreads, etc., but you hardly ever see it any modern cookbooks.

    I had no idea about Thomas Keller’s Catskills story. I shall remember that for a long time, especially since we enjoy eating lapin occasionally.

  • Hi Lazaro – This is a subject close to my heart. Guess what I cooked for lunch today? I’ll tell you – tripe soup LOL We are on the same page my friend.

    My background is as humble as you can get – and I don’t understand anyone turning their nose up at any part of an animal that is not only infinitely edible and nourishing but potentially gratifying and as much of a gastronomic treat as a portion of fillet mignon would be! Funny isn’t it how the same people who look upon tripe, oxtail or liver, with disdain, would pay a prince’s ransom for, and wax lyrical over…. foie gras? Perhaps as you say, it all comes down to skill…. or a lack thereof?

    I try to avoid meat these days as the state of animal husbandry has become firmly entrenched in the gutter with seemingly little hope of redeeming itself to any significant degree. I love my meat but will try far as possible, to go without until I can comfortably afford that from humanely raised animals, for my family.

    I could go on and on but your insightful and wonderfully perceptive article has already saved me the trouble!

    Last but not least, that is a marvellous use of all parts of the cod lucky enough to get into your talented hands!

  • Anna…The waste is equal if not much greater in the US. It is a major issue for us all.

    Thank you for the support. I really appreciate it my friend.


  • Hi Lazaro, great subject.
    An estimated 8.3 million tonnes of household food waste is produced each year in the UK, most of which could have been eaten. This wastes good food, costs us all money and adversely impacts on the environment. The amount of food we throw away is a major contributor to the production of greenhouse gases in the UK.

  • Chef Dennis…my friend the pleasure it mine. I thought that you would know some of these kitchen mistakes. I am sure you work hard to maintain standards.

    You represent the profession honorably. Hopefully you can influence some of the younger cooks!


  • Hi Lazaro
    You never cease to amaze me, Not only do you work wonders in the kitchen but you make it seem like child’s play!! Great job using all of the fish in your dish, and the presentation is spectacular. Too many times chefs waste food, I have seen such atrocities in the kitchen by so called professional chefs, not only is the waste of food sinful, it adversely affects food cost and sends a message to the kitchen that unnecessary waste is acceptable.
    It is my great pleasure to call you friend.
    Best Wishes

  • Stella Star…Thank you for your support. I cannot wait for you to join the BC team.

    Waste is such a massive problem. Hopefully we can all take the time to properly use everything we buy. Good luck with them gizzards!


  • Hey Lazaro, I completely appreciate the topic of ‘waste’ and the disconnect that you mention in reference to many chefs and people in general when it comes to animal product. I’m sure there would certainly be a lot less waste if people had to raise an animal themselves & end its life in order to feed eachother. We take so much for granted here. And I’m sure this waste problem is seen in all affluent countries.

    So I promise I’ll cook the gizzards that come inside my organic chicken next time I buy one. Aside from this, I’m pretty darn good about not letting anything go bad or unused!

  • Maria…Thank you very much for your support. I appreciate it more than you know. Have a wonderful weekend!


  • Maria Medeiros

    Really wonderful!