The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Horrors! Children Exposed to Beef Tongue!

October 12th, 2011 · 12 Comments · Posted in kids

Kids love playing with their food

In the five years I’ve taught my “food appreciation” classes at a private elementary school here in the District of Columbia I’ve never gotten a call from my boss like the one I got yesterday.

She’d heard I’d been teaching the kids about beef tongue. In fact, I had two tongues brining in the milt-purpose room fridge. Both she and her supervisor, she said, were worried about the reaction they might get from parents. Maybe, she suggested, she should be keeping a closer eye on what I’m doing.

Until now, there’s never been a controversy over my “food appreciation” curriculum. Among the goals of these classes is to teach kids about foods they may not have been exposed to previously, about the roots of our foodways, about food cultures in other countries, about making food by hand and eating more sustainably. Since we currently are sampling the cuisine of the British Isles, where offal such as beef tongue has a long and proud tradition, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to teach the kids about eating the whole animal. Cows, they should know, were not put on the planet just to provide hamburger patties.

There are also a number of sustainability issues attached to eating beef. I happen to believe that raising beef on factory farms (confined animal feedlot operations, or CAFOs) is a bad idea and destructive to the environment. But I also believe that animal protein has an important place in the human diet, and that ruminants fit quite nicely into the agricultural landscape, especially when raised on pasture where cultivating vegetable crops may not be practical.

The most popular meat in the world is goat, a food source that may prove vitally important on an overheated planet.

As a food educator, I believe we should be raising sustainable eaters. We need to remind kids that there are many other edible parts of the cow besides the chuck and the T-bone steak. I want them to see, smell and touch foods that may be foreign to them. And guess what? They loved holding the beef tongue, the same way they’ve handled chicken livers, raw fish and squid. (At least the younger kids did).

My boss, meanwhile, is bracing for the worst.

What do you think?

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  • BenK

    Maybe she should suggest that antisemitism is what prevents serving tongue in the season of Yom Kippur.

  • dana reitman

    Sheesh! I think you ought to focus on the indigenous foods of Malawi and prepare and eat fried termites. Eating bugs instead of animal meat would save our planet.

  • Suzy

    I think your class sounds fantastic. Seems as though many adults need that kind of class as well. I can’t wait to hear what happens and if there is any fallout.

  • Mary W

    I think you need a food appreciation class for the grown ups.

  • Claudine

    Beef tongue is eaten here regularly too. As a parent, I have no problem with my kids finding out where their meat comes from. My 8 year old daughter loves eating tongue on sandwiches with cheese. I shudder at the thought though. Maybe parents and teachers should focus on teaching kids to enjoy their food, eat right, and eat properly instead of relying on the same old things. Kids love experimenting with food, even if it is to touch it and scream.

  • Maya

    Nice work Ed. I recall in junior high I came home hungry, opened the fridge and saw a big cow’s tongue resting on a plate… kind of a shock but it didn’t turn me off, since it’s so delicious! I agree with the other commenters, lots of adults could use this kind of food appreciation class!

  • Wendy

    It’s a bit weird, but I can see the learning possibilities and advantages for kids to feel, hold, cook and taste things from other cultures. Did they get an interest in their own tongue as well?

  • A.

    I think the parents who complain about this are probably in denial about where their food comes from. That hamburger meat comes from the same place as that tongue – and I don’t mean a magical machine that whisks together meat on a Styrofoam container.

  • Ed Bruske

    It may be a while before we get to Malawi, Dana. But I’ll keep the fried termites in mind. Got any?

  • Mari

    You can get beef tongue tacos for lunch at Oyamel on 7th St in Penn Quarter. It’s right there, in a nice yummy taco. Tongue. Maybe they should have a chat with Jose Andres.

  • Ed Bruske

    Mari, they also serve lengua tacos at Pica Taco. Nothing unusual there. It’s just us Americans who’ve forgotten what real food is.

  • Lynne


    So many of us have gotten so far removed from where our food comes from. I hve a friend whose older daughter becomes physically ill if you serve her any kind of meat that is recognizable as being an animal part. I discovered this when I proudly served my lovely whole roast chicken when they were guests for dinner.

    I say: the earlier you can get kids exposed to all the wonderful variety of foods out there, before the ICK factor has a chance to set in, the better. (I once had a waiter apologize for serving beef heart when he discovered I had never had it before!!)