Five pigs, eaten head to tail

Pigs aren’t just walking pork chops with bacon hanging underneath. They include plenty of nasty bits: ears, legs, tails. Thankfully there are those (unfortunately increasingly rare) people who know how to prepare an entire pig, nasty bits and all.

Preparing an entire animal — called snout-to-tail cooking because the cook finds a way to prepare as much of the animal as possible — is a feat that was once common sense but has fallen into obscurity. Who needs to learn to cook trotters when easy-to-grill chops are so cheap?

But snout-to-tail cooking is seeing some resurgence. San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino, who writes the Offal Good blog about (what else) cooking and eating animal guts, has hosted a head-to-tail dinner for each of the past six years.

And next weekend, the traveling head-to-tail dinner Cochon 555 will be in Des Moines. At each dinner, five chefs prepare five heritage-breed hogs and five local vintners showcase their wines. (What wines does Iowa have, besides those atrocious dandelion or rhubarb numbers from the Amanas? More than you might think.) The event has been touring around the country: New York, Boston, Atlanta, Napa.

I’ve been invited to judge. Aand by invited, I mean that I offered to come eat the pork feast for free. You can go, too, for $110 per person (though they’ve been offering discounts on Twitter and Facebook).

I’m not trying to shill for Cochon; I’m just excited to be able to to go and eat food raised by caring farmers prepared by talented cooks. I think the dinner highlights an all-too-rare culinary practice. See we waste so much when we only the best parts of our animals. And how disrespectful is that?

So I look forward to eating those nasty bit, bits that become magical in the right hands.