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  • Kit Allowitz

A Lesson in Visceral Meats: How Liver and Onions lead to Less Chickening Out

Liver and onions again! …. Ugh!

In 1981, I lived in Gervais Oregon, nestled in the Willamette valley, the land of ‘milk and honey’ in terms of agriculture, Gervais was and still is a wonderland.

The Willamette Valley grows and touts a huge range of delicious food stuff. In that part of Oregon, one can find just about every sort of fruit, vegetable, berry, and an appetizing cadre of meat goods to satisfy just about any taste.

With all those yummy choices, why was my Mom repeatedly (it seemed like) serving foul tasting (to me anyway) liver and onions again for dinner?

Perhaps a by-product of her own mother and father’s era, when the U.S. Food Administration launched an aggressive campaign to get Americans to eat visceral meats (meats like liver, heart, intestine, kidney etc...) and leave the quality cuts (meats like steak and pork chops) for the men and women serving overseas in World War II.

Visceral meats are the cuts of meat that often seem difficult (to me) to want to voluntarily consume. Cuts like liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, tripe, kidneys, tongue and intestines. *Disclaimer – I am fully aware that many of my fellow human’s love and enjoy these cuts of meat. I respect, honor and envy your wide-ranging variety of taste bud breadth.

Back to liver-(and perhaps an opportunity to rant just a bit more) On yet another night in 1981 my Mom was preparing again, the unsavory combination of liver and onions. I swear to this day we had the stuff 2 times a week….my mom swears it was far less than that.

Where was all this liver coming from?

We occasionally slaughtered one of our pigs and ate it. I don’t recall wrapping up pig liver in white butcher paper for later consumption. I wonder, to this day how it was that liver was consistently showing up on the Allowitz dinner table.

More agony …..Mom and Dad consistently held hostage the possibility of dessert (some sugary delight) until we managed to get down that grisly horrid and unpleasant tasting liver and onions and clean our plates. To this day, I’d rather eat grass and dirt than have liver and onions.


Perhaps an inquiry into what the restraining forces were that made consumption of liver and onions hard for me as well as producing one of my foulest childhood memories is in order?

Is it possible that an inquiry could produce insights into the question? Could my parents have done anything to infuse ‘driving forces’ into the Allowitz kid’s paradigms to reduce the ‘restraining forces’ to voluntarily consume liver and onions?

Maybe? Maybe not.

How often do we as individuals, teams, departments and organizations face ‘liver and onions’ obstacles? The challenges and things that need to change or be changed and yet there is resistance to change happening? At the same time, in any cause, there are normally ‘driving forces’ that would support the cause and the change.

Introduction of Force Field Analysis by Kurt Lewin (and possibly the key to the liver and onions conundrum of my childhood)

In 1941 Psychologist Kurt Lewin, (considered to be one of the founders of social psychology) along with anthropologist Margaret Mead were asked to head a committee to find a way to get Americans to eat less of the savory meats, (steaks and pork chops) and instead choose the cuts of meat soldiers didn’t want to eat…...the visceral cuts (liver, pancreas, lungs and tongue).

Force-Field Analysis is a tool that helps identify the ‘pro’s’ (driving forces) and ‘con’s’ (restraining forces) of something you are trying to change. It’s called Force-Field Analysis because Kurt Lewin meant the ‘force field’ described as two opposite forces working for and against change.

The 1941 change that was wanted: Get Americans to eat more liver and heart.

Conducting a Force-Field analysis can often be done by drawing a simple diagram.

Let’s help Kurt and Margaret for a second with their visceral meat dilemma by using a Force-Field diagram. (see Figure 1)

If I asked you for a list of the pros’ (driving forces as to why you WOULD want to eat liver, heart, tongue, etc.) as well as a list of cons’ (restraining forces as to why you would NOT want to eat liver, heart, tongue etc.) your list would likely look like my list, displayed here: (see Figure 1)


You can use Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Analysis on all sorts of dilemma’s, conundrums, and challenges you face as well as changes you want to make.

The Force-Field Analysis is an easy tool that allows you and I to weigh the driving forces (think of positive forces) against the restraining forces (think negative forces) to drive change.

Force-Field Analysis works for simple little changes you seek to make as well as large scale personal, professional, managerial and organizational change.

It takes 4 steps.

Step 1: Begin the process by writing what it is you seek to change in middle of a piece of paper. (Examples: I want to get my employees to accept the new contact management system we just purchased. I want to lose 20 pounds. I want to complete an Ironman).

Step 2: List restraining forces (con’s) that push down and make what you seek, hard to achieve. (Examples: My employees already use a contact manager system they think they like. I’d have to give up my favorite foods to lose weight. I’d have to sleep less if I wanted to complete an Ironman).

Step 3: List the driving forces (pro’s) that push up and make what you seek easier to achieve. (Examples: My employees can get the data they need much quicker with this new contact manager system. I know my knees would hurt less if I weighed 20 pounds less. I would complete something few people are willing to try if I do the Ironman).

Step 4: Now step back after you have exhausted a list of driving and restraining forces. How does it look? What do you need to do to reduce the restraining forces and accentuate the driving forces? Can you? Should you?

For Kurt Lewin and Margaret Mead they went to work to try to get to the far side of complexity as to how to get Americans to eat more visceral meats. Earlier propaganda had already tried slogans like ‘Food will win this war’ to leverage the potential driving force of patriotism to get the desired results.

The campaign was met with lukewarm outcomes. Lewin and Mead decided to focus on the restraining forces rather than the driving forces for the visceral meat project. Rather than ask “What might convince you and I to eat these unsavory meats?” Ask instead, “Why won’t you and I eat these visceral meats?”

Any guesses as to what the solution to the visceral meat conundrum was?

……… guesses?

Answer: Recipes.

As the story goes, using Force-Field Analysis, Kurt and Martha found that much of the challenge was the American public’s lack of knowledge about how to prepare tongue or liver or heart or tripe.

Solution: Offer recipes, cooking classes and cook books with step by step instructions on how to take a cow heart, make it savory with stuffing and serve, or perhaps, how to prepare kidney with piquant vegetable stew and woo your table guests.

Results: Using Force-Field Analysis works! Yet with the gigantic paradigm shift needed to move from steaks to intestines, the visceral meat challenge ended up being a mixed bag…. turns out that in the end, a heavily marinated steak is a formidable foe for even the best dressed and propagandized liver, heart, tongue, kidney or tripe.

The outcome of the visceral meat conundrum may have worked partially as intended. I would like to suggest that by using Force-Field Analysis to look at our simplest to most complex change initiatives is a sure-fire way to increase the chances of success in making those changes. Force-Field Analysis allows us to visually see what we are up against and most likely helps you and I pull the chicken switch Less!

Source: Romm, Cari. (2014, September 25). The Atlantic.

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