Composting is also important at LaPlatte River Angus Farm in Shelburne, where [Jim Kleptz] and his sons run an all-natural operation. The resulting Black Angus beef is a favorite at local restaurants and grocery stores. Kleptz began farming as a hobby around 30 years ago, but it "got kind of out of hand," he says. Now the farm processes enough animals each week to "keep my two sons employed full-time." Because the demand for their products exceeds supply, LaPlatte prefers to "accept new customers based on their ability to use lesser cuts." Kleptz points out that kidneys, hearts, liver and tongue aren't the only underutilized portions of animals. Tripe and sweetbreads are other wasted edible opportunities. He also mentions oxtail, which he thinks is "very tasty" when made into soup. He gets very few requests for it these days.While a hamburger is safely uniform and generic-looking, organ meats are not - kidneys, hearts, tongues and liver all remind you of parts of yourself. [Amy Trubeck] suggests this makes eating those parts of an animal seem more like cannibalism - we don't like to anthropomorphize our food. The irony here, she says, is that if American consumers "really knew how their hamburger was raised and processed, they would probably be more disgusted than they are about organs." But, she continues, "Everything in our culture reinforces that they don't have to know."A complex web of social and cultural factors also feeds into the modern anti-organ sentiment. In We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans, Donna Gabaccia explains how the "domestic science movement" of the early 20th century pushed immigrants to abandon their native dishes for "healthier" American fare. Funny-sounding dishes like rognone con salsiccia e funghi - kidneys with sausages and mushrooms - and gebackene rindszunge - breaded beef tongue - were swapped for, say, hamburger casserole made with Campbell's tomato soup. Cooking like "an American" became an important marker of cultural assimilation. As immigrants abandoned traditional foods in an effort to "fit in," recipes for variety meats were discarded.
The Offal Truth
An autumnal chill is in the air, but fluorescent cherry tomatoes, dusky eggplants and bell peppers in lipstick shades still crowd every cranny of the Burlington Farmers' Market. Veggies rule at the weekly open-air food fair, except at a handful of meat-slinging farmstands. At the one occupied by Fairfield's Stony Pond Farm, Tyler Webb is carefully topping a slab of focaccia with a juicy organic burger when a tough-looking man in a bulky leather jacket ambles over, his motorcycle helme...