Tale of the Tail

Poor people eat EVERYTHING. As my grandparents admonished when I turned up my naive little nose at something: “We eat it ALL.” I later learned that ALL meant “from the rooter to the tooter” and everything in between…. heart, liver, brains, maws, intestines, feet….

Over time, I embraced that wisdom and learned to — indeed — EAT IT ALL… and then some.

Oxtail - animalIt never ceases to amaze me how creative cooks all over the world (surely mothers) somehow managed to transform even the most unlikely/undelectable ingredients into delightful meals that not only filled bellies but tasted GOOD beyond belief. Oxtail is a perfect example. Who would have the immense creativity to think of cooking the tail of a cow unless one really had to?

Well, I am glad somebody did that and passed along the wisdom… although these days oxtail amounts to a delicacy at more than $7.50 per pound.

When I lived in France, I had a day when I was craving some oxtail. Using my limited French, I attempted to describe what I wanted. Not succeeding with words, I tried to visually illustrate my desire to the butcher by bending over and wiggling my fingers at my backside while repeating “taille, taille”. The butcher and everyone in the shop laughed at my demonstration. What I had asked for was “taille de boeuf” — which means “the size of the beef” rather than “queue de boeuf” which is the tail. I had to swallow more than a mouthful of embarrassement, but I got what I wanted in the end (pun intended).

There are many ways to cook oxtail but my favorites are Jamaican or African style, both of which are similar. The big difference between the two is the use (or not) of palm oil.

Speaking of which, red palm oil has recently been recognized (by Dr. Oz no less) as a “wonder food” — one that is highly beneficial to good health. Ancient civilizations have always known its benefit and regarded it as sacred = one of the most nutritious edible oils in the world. Clearly, our African forbears knew something about nutrition and this is a prime example of how African people retained our foodways even as we were dispersed by slavery throughout the Diaspora.

So here in my recipe for stewed oxtail, adorned with broad beans and carrots. It is best served over rice with plantains on the side.

Stewed oxtail with broad beans and carrots

Stewed oxtail with broad beans and carrots


¼ cup oil (vegetable)
¼ cup oil (palm)
2# oxtail
1 large onion (chopped)
4x escallion (chopped)
4x plum tomatoes (chopped)
½ cup tomato sauce
5 cups water (or more)
4x carrots (sliced in ½” rounds)
1 cup broad beans (cooked separately in water with no seasoning)
OR use canned beans


1 tbs                garlic (crushed)
1 tsp                thyme
1 tsp                pepper (black)
4 cubes            beef bouillon
1                      chili
6                      bay leaves


HEAT oil in a large pot & fry oxtail until well browned
ADD seasoning, onion, scallion & tomatoes
STIR well to coat vegetables
ADD tomato sauce & water
COOK on medium heat until meat is tender (3+ hours)
ADD carrots & broad beans (with water they were cooked in)
ADD more water as necessary
COOK until meat is VERY tender (maybe 30 minutes more)


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