Food and Drink 

The politics and persuasions of lamb

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I’m the kind of person who likes to have reindeer for Christmas dinner and lamb or rabbit, or at least a roast chicken, for Easter.

Some people, like my sister, who takes great exception to such practices, might find this a bit upsetting. But for me it’s a way of honouring these creatures that, for the most part, have been much reduced to fluffy little Hallmark/Disney things, gamboling through airbrushed meadows with daisy garlands about their necks, empty replicas of their former noble, unmediated selves.

We cook them very considerately, these animals that have been with us on feast days for centuries, often turning to recipes from the Old World. These usually take not a lot of time to prepare, but often a long time to cook, so the aromas fill our comfortable home with more comfort before guests arrive. Most seem quite pleased by the results.

We won’t be serving lamb this Easter, mainly because we’ll be having dinner elsewhere. But I just want to put it out there that roast lamb, as opposed to the traditional ham or turkey, makes for a wonderful Easter dinner. If you have kids, just tell them it’s roast beef and they’ll be fine.

Easter or not, lamb can be a real deal-breaker. I may have started serving it myself in part to distinguish myself from “mom”, as all young people must do. My mother could not stand even the smell of roast lamb — never mind mutton — so it was never served when I was a kid.

Later, when I was a reasonable facsimile of an adult with my own place, I had a dog that couldn’t take it, either. She went berserk whenever we cooked lamb, circling up to the oven door, yowling and whining, then running around the kitchen in an agitated frenzy, looping out to the living room, and back to the oven door to drive herself nuts all over again.

We wondered if it smelled like roast dog, or something close to herself — not that we would know.

I found this all very curious until I read a passage last week in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking . In fact, lamb has special properties that account for its unique aroma, ergo taste — one you’re either “for or agin”.

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