All reindeer meat differs in flavour from one season to the next. Summer reindeer, from animals that have eaten almost nothing but grass, is particularly mild. Meat from bulls that have been slaughtered in the autumn is richer, since the animals have begun to eat wild fungi, which imparts more flavour to the meat. Meat from the winter slaughter is the gamiest. This is because fodder is scare and the animals have foraged for lichens. A bearer of tradition, Ingrid is a Sámi home cook who knows the secrets behind good food. And she knows that it is both possible and necessary to develop the art of cookery.
In the words of Fergus Henderson, “If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.” But this is nothing new.
There are several aortas in a bucket on the front porch. They remind me of the over-cooked pasta that they served us for school lunches. In the old days, the Sámi boiled aortas and ate them, just as they are, like spaghetti. Nowadays, explains Ingrid, when battered and deep fried, they are a bit like calamari in terms of both taste and consistency. My mouth begins to water. Sámi cooking is changing and, of course, there are modern versions of all the dishes, but the reindeer remains the same. From this animal, which is the heart and soul of a cultural identity, everything must be used and nothing discarded.
English celebrity chef Fergus Henderson helped to popularize ‘whole beast’ or ‘nose-to-tail eating’ at his Michelin-starred restaurant St John in London. In the words of Fergus Henderson, “If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.” But this is nothing new. Making use of the whole animal has always been rule number one in a society of hunter-gatherers. I don’t believe for a minute that the French would have eaten snails, oysters or woodcock with the innards if the freezer had been full of corn-fed fillet steak. Only in our careless, throw-way consumer society is it acceptable to prefer chicken breasts to thighs.