When I tell people that I teach traditional food workshops, I always lead with sourdough and sauerkraut. Maybe I’ll tell them about kefir and kombucha.
Because telling people that we have a super food on the Prairies – that we don’t need exotic ingredients trucked, floated, and flown from the other side of the planet – and that that superfood is grass-fed beef liver….
I’ve lost them.
Because people think liver tastes gross. All they know of it is righteously prepared, boiled for half an hour, fried with onions for another half an hour. That would be hella tough and super unpalatable to a liver and onion lover, let alone a little kid that just wants cheesy broccoli and noodles!
Trying to unpack this ancestral influence on this dish is complicated. Liver is considered a sacred food by many cultures around the world, and prized for its dense nutrition. Depending on your culture of origin and how long your family has been away from that culture, will influence how close you are to enjoying this dish. In my family, we have largely been in Canada (from the British Isles) for about 100-150 years. So that means that we enjoy rice pudding, and curried chicken with raisins. There is a tradition of hunting and this tradition results in some interesting dishes. My grandfather dutifully prepared liver for his family – because on some level, he must have known it was good for them.
But fundamentally, good things for you should taste good…right? (Cheeto flavour scientists notwithstanding)
if you see animals eating what they are meant to eat, in a comfortable habitat, you see that they eat the best grasses/bugs/plants. And we are no different. How many times have you had a craving…for something “bad” and you resisted, and resisted, until finally you “gave in”? This is total bullshit. When your body tells you you need something, it is because you are mineral/nutrient deficient (which is the subject for a whole other blog post)
How do we reclaim this nourishing, delicious dish of liver and onions? From the CAFO (concentrated animal feed operation), from the poor preparation, from the derision that arises when someone says “liver and onions”?
First, you need the “right” liver – from a farmer you know, who raises the animal on grass. Meeting local producers and supporting their efforts creates a more robust food system. We are not dependant on faraway operations that may or not be in line with our values.
Second, you need to know how to prepare it (quickly!) With a great recipe!
Third, you need to give that right liver, properly prepared, a chance. It has taken years to get here – so give yourself a few times to see if you like this dish!
Do you want to find local producers? Do you want to learn how to make liver delicious? Follow me on Facebook and Instagram, find out when the upcoming classes are, and reclaim this dish!