The cultural shift toward a more wholesome food system in America has prompted changes to the way we talk about what we eat as well. This new terminology often follows a similar pattern, combining two nouns with a preposition to express some all-encompassing progression or idea. Consider: farm-to-table, crop-to-cup, nose-to-tail.
The latest addition to the lexicon comes from a new poultry-centric restaurant in Washington, D.C., called the Bird, which, like its swine-themed sister the Pig, promotes a focus on whole-animal butchery. “The menu is inspired by poultry dishes from all over the world using chicken & capon, duck, quail, turkey, squab, grouse, goose and ostrich and all of their various parts and pieces,” according to a press release. But because pigs and poultry are different animals with different parts, the new place can’t just employ the same old nose-to-tail motto. So it’s using a different, anatomically correct term: “beak to toe.”
Give the operators a little credit for at least attempting to advance the dialogue. But this new descriptor doesn’t quite work, and not just because “beak to toe” has a certain unappetizing ring to it. The now-ubiquitous nose-to-tail term works so well because pig snouts and tails can be used to make delectable things. (For instance, check out this roundup of great pig-tail dishes across the country.) But bird beaks and toes? What exactly does the chef intend to do with those?
Chicken feet would be one thing. There’s a longstanding tradition of cooking with those, particularly in Asian cuisine. The toes, though, are basically claws — or “talons,” as Jon Heder’s character in the 2004 comedy Napoleon Dynamite would put it. Food Republic’s recipe editor and I are scratching our heads about possible culinary purposes for these. Perhaps the restaurant could use them to make literal head-scratchers to sell in the gift shop? As for the beaks, well, we’re drawing blanks.
We’ve reached out to the new restaurant’s ownership to clarify whether “beak to toe” is just an attempt at a clever catchphrase for marketing purposes or whether there are actual plans for cooking with that stuff. Stay tuned.