By Susie Mesure
If you think the nose-to-tail eating mantra pushes the food revolution as far as it can go, then prepare to think again. A London-based taxidermist will challenge foodies to go one step further this weekend by asking them to stuff what they are eating as well as themselves.
Elle Kaye, who runs workshops in Hertfordshire and west London, is holding two "edible taxidermy" masterclasses at the Feast food festival next Saturday and Sunday, at Tobacco Dock in east London. While she teaches participants how to "reconstruct" a rabbit, a chef, Alex Armstrong, will turn the edible parts into a feast for everyone to share once they're done.
Ms Kaye, who originally studied fine art at Loughborough University, said she wanted to highlight how "being a taxidermist can put food on the table, and use every component of an animal". She added: "In this way, nothing gets wasted and the overreaching notion of preservation is upheld. Taxidermy prides itself with the recycling of the animal, after life, so being able to eat the specimen only complements this. It's ethical and economical, promoting recycling, which in essence underpins what taxidermy is."
Ms Kaye says she eats "most of the specimens" she works on from hare to mallards. "In restaurants across the country, pigeon, hare and other mammals often fetch high prices. But I can enjoy these privileges day in and day out."
Ms Armstrong plans to use the flesh to make a rabbit treacle, which she describes as a "quick pulled rabbit" that she'll serve on some sourdough or flatbread. "I'll cook it in verjus, then take the bones out and make a quick stock, then simmer it all down."
Although next weekend's event is believed to be the first of its kind, taxidermists are often passionate about not letting any part of their model go to waste. Chris Elliott, a Northamptonshire-based taxidermist, said: "If I skin a pheasant it's as simple as taking a rubber glove off your hand. My theory is, if it's a fresh specimen, why waste the body? It's just like walking into any butcher's shop and seeing pheasants to buy."
Mr Elliott specialises in mounting fish and "always offers people the meat back, which when it's a 20lb wild salmon is worth a lot". He added: "Most taxidermists have an environmental, non-waste attitude to what they do, so it's not unusual for us."
But that wasn't enough to persuade chef and father of the nose-to-tail eating revolution, Fergus Henderson. When asked if he'd like to take his ethos one step further, his spokesperson said he'd declined to comment. "He said 'lunch and taxidermy' didn't go very well in his mind so he wanted to distance himself from it."
Anthropomorphic taxidermy – displaying stuffed animals as if they were humans – is a thriving craft industry. But whether restaurants will start adding a "takeaway" section to their menus, allowing diners the chance to take home what they have just eaten, remains to be seen.