Sunday, September 18, 2011

Using the "Whole Animal," or, Mottainai

Here is a nice story, largely unrelated to the topic at hand. Once upon a time I was chatting with a couple of guests at work. I mused about how giving the coconut palm was, providing vitamins and minerals in the liquid from within the fruit, nutritious and fatty nuts, creamy milk, healthful oil for eating, cleaning and conditioning skin, sennet ('aha') for ropes-- well, I digress, but needless to say I have a great respect for the tree. They told me about the coconut palm in their culture, being from Mangolore, and the Kalpa Vriksha. The Kalpa Vriksha is, as many western cultures might call it, a Tree of Life. They said that they called the coconut palm that because it was all-giving and all-providing.

That got me thinking, later, about the way in which plants and animals provide for the people to live. In a way, I believe that much of what we consume from can be considered all-giving, if we are only all-accepting.

In Japan, the concept of Mottainai is the idea of simply not being wasteful. I learned 'Mottainai' a long, long time ago-- I'm not sure from who or why or how, but I remember the following, about the Mottainai Obake.

 And f you are awesome (or 8), you could also watch this video. Anyhow, I remember vaguely the concept being described to me as "what old men say when you throw away a sandwich." I did a heap of studying about the concept, and old Japanese traditions (such as furoshiki, an all-purpose Japanese bandana) and even did my final project for my Japanese Minor on it.

Eventually I come to this: I believe in using as much of everything as possible. One thing feeds the next thing and everything is a cycle. This cycle is so vital to life and living and being and growing-- an entirely captivating and rhythmic system that seems to be have been choreographed by necessity and currently carried out only as novelty. The entire process of cutting and peeling vegetables, discarding large parts of them, and (oh no!) throwing out the 'less enjoyed' parts of animals just makes me so sad inside. Learn about the different nutrients in the leaves, roots, stems, seeds, and fruits. Learn about how giving the bones and organs of an animal can be.

I try my hardest to wring two or three uses out of things. Yesterdays dressing is today's marinade, last night's leftovers are this morning's omelette, and the drippings from that meat will cook the next batch of veggies. Yogurt drains out whey and you can make fermented vegetables, chock-full of probiotics, from that (as the yogurt enables you to make the next batch of yogurt!). Since I was little, I saved papaya seeds as pepper (not knowing about how rich in enzymes they were!) and planted all (to my parents dismay?) my fruit seeds.

Stock is a good place to start: Vegetable peelings and stubs can get thrown into the freezer and collect in a bag. The stems of your herbs and the heads and shells of your shrimps are almost as valuable as the initial foods were. Buy a whole chicken and roast it, then pick it clean and save the carcass. Make a stock from it. Slow-cook your ribs or roasts and save those bones. Make a stock from them. When its time to boil (er, almost boil) those meaty discards, add your frozen carrot peelings and parsley stems. Add your celery and onion butts! I could make an entire blog about stock making alone, so I'll leave you with those tips and urge you to explore the world of stockmaking from one of the many masters.

You can throw the tops of carrots into salads or anywhere you'd use parsley. Radish tops make a mean pesto and the white tails of green onions can grow you more green onions simply by trimming the roots and placing them in fresh water in a sunny spot. In looking through old cookbooks in my dear grandmother's house, I found a very simple recipe that is perfectly in keeping with this subject. I invite you to try it and I'll try it too. It is so simple, in fact, that I don't even believe it has a name (or that people actually need a recipe for it), but sometimes it is nice to see something in old print and pass it on. It makes it a little bit more real, and a little bit more like it is part of that cycle.
BEET GREENS FIESOLE from Fresh-from-the-Garden Cookbookby Miriam B. Loo
1 lb beet greens, washed and trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TB olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cook beet greens in salted boiling water until just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well, pressing greens to sides of colander or sieve to remove all moisture. In a medium-size skillet, sauté garlic in olive oil until just brown, about 1 minute. Add beet greens; mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat greens through. Serve immediately.
Serves 4. 
Thanks for stickin' around. Let me know if you try it!

Happy eating.


Ke Keiki's Primal Adventure said...

Enjoyed this so much, You are beautiful anyway but I believe that the way you eat helps to make your skin glow.

Deus Invictus said...

I don't do it as often as I should but I do try and reuse various components. I actually have some tomahawk cut ribeye's (still have the entire beef rib attached) that I plan on grilling this weekend. I figured I could use the bones for stock and then give them to my dog afterwards. And what was that about Papya seeds? Do you just stick them in a grinder and use it like black pepper?

Shaleah said...

Thank you so much, Ke Keiki... I just hope my smile is as bright as yours!!!

Deus Invictus: Yep! I just use them like black peppercorns. They have a different flavor-- I love them! They're so full of digestion-aiding enzymes... they're awesome.

Deus Invictus said...

I knew the papaya itself had the digestion-aiding enzymes, but I never really though about the seeds.