Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Store-bought Meat, for sure

Wednesday July 9, 2008

After several mishaps borne of being essentially first-timers in the kill-your-own-dinner circle and just plain exhaustion, tonight we feast on our own homegrown lamb. Right now it is baking inside green peppers. We’d planned to do this Sunday evening, only to discover, about 20% into the prep for dinner that in my zeal to be safe and sanitary, I’d spirited every last package of newly-butchered meat to Sandy’s cold storage. She was closed by this time and Monday’s her store is shuttered, so it would have to wait until Tuesday. Only, yesterday came and by the time I was there to pick up the solid bricks of ground lamb, it seemed a little absurd to go through the machinations required to use the meat on the same night.

So, tonight. I have to say, with something close to embarrassment, that I’m a little shocked at how different truly fresh meat behaves. All these books and tales I’ve read over especially the last two years, wherein chefs and would-be chefs stumble on a completely Other culinary world in the small villages of Italy and France, I finally understand. Certainly, all along I’ve muttered yes, yes, of course, a life-changing experience to handle meat and vegetables and wine all grown within a few miles. Yes, yes, of course it’s better! Of course it changes you – and these chefs and cooks and writers and lovers of simple food can no longer live, really, in North America because they just can’t go home again – not to the home that churns out food on a conveyer belt and demands gratitude for the plenty. I got that.

But, wow. After buying organic and grass-fed and all that for a while now, I guess I really didn’t appreciate that at its essence this is all still factory food and now, well now, we are – just starting – to do something very different. Tonight I cook with the lowest of the low - the ground meat, the meat not really fit to do anything else with. And, yet, from the moment I put it in the pan it was like no other meat I’d ever cooked. No smell, no clumping. Quickly and evenly cooking with the other ingredients.

This is a different food. Just like our discovery that the lowly potato is a completely different vegetable any way you cook it if it’s just been pulled from your own dirt, we are about to embark on months of Meat Discovery.

Thursday, July 10

Well, it’s official. Our lamb is yummy. Very, very yummy. I now understand why people who have raised lamb or purchased friend’s lamb have practically tackled us when discovering we are getting ready to slaughter.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Slaughter Day

12 hours. If anyone on the subway or the bus or at a cocktail party should somehow try to stump you with “how many hours does is take for 3 grown people to turn baa-ing sheep into lamb chops and other assorted wrapped packages? YOU have the answer. Which is, really, “although lamb seems really expensive, it is not nearly expensive enough to cover the cost of growing it.” But, yes, 12 hours is indeed what this particular challenge evokes.

That would be the right answer.

So. Got up at 4:30 this morning. Wow. Actually, I got up on my own; commandeered the alarm clock with the idea that since I was up Mark might steal a few minutes. Stole downstairs and hugged the clock to my chest while I entertained the fantasy that I was going to get 20 more minutes of sleep because I would leap up when my clutched alarm began to sing. But, of course, it went off, and all hell broke loose and Mark was peering down at me wondering what the problem was and I hadn’t slept another wink at all, so overall a loss.

But, I turned the coffee on (what little we had) and got going. Thankfully, I’d bleached the tables and otherwise readied our “processing” station last night, but as Mark headed down to get the first lamb, I thought of 20 things I should have handled.

We were lucky today. We’ve only done this once before, with a salty merchant marine who’d done everything twice, but today it was strangely relaxing, and therapeutic.  We had wonderful, necessary help from a friend who is completely un-squeamish and totally willing to do whatever needs doing. The weather was phenomenal; incredibly benign temps, and drizzling, with a few gentle breezes thrown in. The lambs were relatively calm (we worked hard to keep them that way), the air was cool, the flies were few, etc. Ice played a lesser role than it might have.

Today is a real turning point for us. Mark helped kill the first lamb with John, but killing a whole lamb (much less 3) and then BUTCHERING them truly deserves some accolades. He is one serious Hombre, my husband. There are few words to describe the satisfaction of a locker full of meat and the knowledge that this animal lived well and died well, at our hands, on our land, with no uncertainties to get in the way of us and the food we eat.