I can pinpoint one particular moment when my perspective on food changed. It involved a conversation in the media driven by a prominent food writer regarding the “value” of bone marrow and the concept of charging money for what is seen as a waste product. At the time I was serving a single, split marrow bone that was presented in a fairly grotesque fashion, propped up on a wooden board. It was a dish strongly influenced by Fergus Henderson’s bone marrow toast at the iconic St. JOHN restaurant in London.
The ensuing debate solidified my thinking about the responsibility to represent all cuts and parts of the animal, no matter how they are perceived, and not just to eat “high on the hog”, as Henderson so aptly states.
Bone marrow is a fantastically adaptable product. Some love the texture of it simply roasted in the bone, while for others there needs to be some treatment to hide the perpetual reminder of its origins. I find that smoking and whipping the marrow so it resembles butter preserves the product. Not only can it be kept in this manner for weeks, it also makes it infinitely more approachable. Once you have processed the marrow this way its use becomes as adaptable in a recipe as butter. I love to use it to enrich rice or grain dishes, finish sauces or to work into pastry as a more decadent shortening than lard.
There is no denying the confronting nature of bone marrow. But I choose to celebrate it – or, to quote Henry David Thoreau, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.