Kicking Over Sacred Cows
I must admit to being more than a little exercised by the furore about the discovery of horse meat in TESCO ‘everyday value beefburgers’. In a country which is strongly sentimental about its ‘four legged friends’ I fear that the business has lost some of the ‘intelligent edge’ that made it a pretty solid investment. While grovelling apologies were issued to its customers via newspaper adverts, poor business intelligence has probably inflicted long term damage to the TESCO brand .
Despite the British supermarket fiasco, horse meat continues to be popular in Europe where it features regularly on the menus of restaurants in countries such as France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Iceland and Poland. Horse has been particularly popular in France since the time of the Revolution where horses belonging to the aristocracy ended up on the plates of the lower classes.
Closer to home, horse meat was a popular source of animal protein in both England and Scotland until the First World War. According to Clarissa Dixon Wright, the cook and food writer, we Scots have more of a tradition of eating horse meat than the English. Today the discerning gastro-tourist can still find horse on the menu (pan fried rump or steak tartare) at the L’Escargot Bleu restaurant in Edinburgh.
I have eaten and enjoyed horse. The first time was in the Belgian town of Langemark in 1989 during a school trip to the battlefields of the First World War. While I enjoyed the thin, lightly fried horse steak smothered in a pepper and caper sauce, the pupils were less than complimentary. Most made their way post-dinner to the chip van in the town square for a portion of very thinly cut chips with mayonnaise.
Clarissa Dixon Wright reckons that given our obsession with healthy eating, the government should be promoting the consumption of horse given that the meat is full of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
The Bible has a lot to say about food, its provision and consumption, teaching that all food, plant or animal is provided by God for the sustenance of man. While the Old Testament placed restrictions on what animals could be consumed, because they were deemed to be clean or unclean, Jesus himself declared all foods to be clean.
The Apostle Paul also said that he was fully convinced that no food was unclean in itself. In other words there is no prohibition from the Bible as to what animals we should use for food today. Surely this is good news for the horsemeat aficionados.
In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, Clarissa Dixon Wright confidently talks about her preparedness to ‘give any meat a go’. She owns up to eating badger when she was younger, describing the taste as being’ similar to wild boar’ and fondly reminisces about the ‘West Country pubs which had badger hams on the bar’ rather like the cured hams we see in Spanish country cafes today.
I do think that I have ‘catholic taste’ when it comes to good food and drink, and while I am a great fan of Clarissa’s journalistic and literary work, I draw the line at eating badger !