Recently, James Beard award winning cookbook author Jennifer McLagan was in Montreal on a promotional tour for "Odd Bits" the third installment of a trilogy of fantastic books, following its 2 predecessors "Bones" and "Fat". Odd Bits focuses on making an effort to alleviate some of the unwarranted stigma around cooking offal (organ meat) and other unreasonably less desirable cuts of meat from animals that are raised for human consumption. It's preposterous that when an animal is taken to slaughter, so many of the perfectly good and tasty parts that were once considered delicacies go to waste simply due to lack of consumer demand. An animal that has given it's life for food at very least deserves the respect of not being wasted. Odd Bits aims at helping to create more of a demand for these parts, teaching how to cook them and raising awareness of not only the ethical reasons for drawing attention to this issue but also on educating the public on how delicious these parts can be when handled and prepared with a deft hand, or simply by someone who has done a little bit of homework. We own a copy of all three of Jennifer McLagan's books and would whole heartedly recommend any one of them for the culinary enthusiast in your life, go by Appetite for Books or your local bookstore and pick one up.
Many people harbor negative memories or opinions of eating organ meat as a result perhaps of a less than successful experience in the past, eating poorly made preparations or maybe just an unjustified fear of the unknown. We can't tell you how many times we've been to dinner with company who look at things on a menu like liver, sweetbreads, tongue or blood sausage and say "oh no, that's not for me". Inevitably we will respectfully challenge this preconceived notion without being too pushy, questioning why they feel this way. Generally the only experience people can muster up as a reason for why they make such statements is a distant memory of their eastern European grandparents serving overcooked liver on the dinner table and them loathing the smell, texture or taste. We remind them that there was a time in their life when they probably hated beer, mushrooms and spinach, but they have most likely overcome these trepidations and come to develop a liking for such ingredients, so why not organ meat? Occasions like this most often end in us ordering the menu item in question, sharing a bite with our company, and more often than not, converting them to enjoying it thereby redeeming a perfectly tender and delectable piece of offal that they claimed to have hated only 20 minutes prior.
We attended both events on the Montreal leg of the Odd Bits book tour and had a great weekend learning a few new things, sharing conversations, meeting new people and sampling terrific dishes showcasing some of our favorite bits of the beasts we love to eat. The first of two functions took place at Appetite for Books, an excellent resource for cook books as well as cooking demonstrations, lessons and information on all things food. We shared a lovely afternoon seminar with Jennifer McLagan, and other curious people focused on learning how to prepare and where to source offal in Montreal over a glass of wine and a tasty bite of stewed tripe in tomato sauce with crispy chickpeas. Questions were encouraged, the mood was very friendly and Jennifer McLagan took a moment at the end to meet with people and happily sign copies of her books.
On the following afternoon a very pleasant and laid back Sunday lunch was held at the Grumman '78 Headquarters on de Courcelle street in St Henri. It was a 45$ fixed price, four course meal focusing on dishes made from some of the aforementioned less popular cuts that showcased precisely how fantastic and fun a meal can be made of them. The lunch was charming, sitting in good company at tables made of fastened together shipping pallets set up around the open kitchen. We made friends with the other couples we shared a table with and the afternoon was made all the better with a splendid bottle of Beaujolais that we opted for at an additional charge, albeit at an unbelievably reasonable price. The Grumman team even visited tables offering second helpings of certain items to those who were interested, a testament to the generosity and casual nature of the event. Half way through the meal we were lucky enough to have Jennifer McLagan herself join our communal table and share conversation and the final two courses of the afternoon with us all.
Not all of the people present arrived as aficionados or even enthusiasts of offal, but judging by the reaction of those we spoke to, most left with a profound appreciation for the delectable potential they had to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Montreal's famous taco truck's headquarters for yet another memorable meal.
Check out the photos from the event below, and if you're interested you can have a look at another event we recently attended at taco HQ with M. Wells here or our Facebook photo album for pictures of our various previous trips to visit the taco truck here. Also, certainly don't forget to check out the Grumman '78 website as well as their twitter and facebook accounts for news on upcoming parties and where you can find the truck on any given day.
Ox Tail Consomée & Bone Marrow
Lentils, Snails, Salt Pork, Fried Pig Skin
Tongue BLT on Rye
Brown Butter Ice Cream & Sablé Cookie
630 De Courcelle
Appetite for Books
388 Victoria Avenue