October 26, 2012

A Leg of Lamb, Trussed and Tied

There are few things that are as satisfying as holding a large piece of meat in your hands, brushing your fingers over the thick layers of fat and marbleized cartilage, feeling the cold flesh give way as you prod and pull, shaping the hunk this way and that. It is primal and animalistic—it reconnects you to some deep, instinctual part of the soul that sees and feels meat and knows that hunger will soon be sated; that you have proven, with that piece of meat between your fingers, that you can survive and nourish and care for yourself.

It is good to be reminded of this from time to time. And, as someone said to me recently, you have to do what works for you.

For some, I imagine, it would be other things. For me, it’s the food that I prepare and consume—the way in which it reminds me of the primordial instincts in us all—how it takes me out of my head and puts me in the realm of fur and earth and soil and sand.

It’s a very different realm from the one that I inhabit when writing. But this is why food and writing are so interesting when placed in proximity to one another. They call up a series of satisfying opposites: lofty and grounded, ethereal and substantial; they transport, but they also keep us firmly planted on the ground, in that place where our primal urges—hunger and thirst, passion and desire—are allowed to reign.

I like it very much there.


This past weekend, I made a leg of lamb with my roommate. I rubbed course salt and pepper into the flesh; I drizzled olive oil and I pressed the oils of rosemary sprigs into the thick layer of fat; I made incisions all over the surface and pushed crushed garlic cloves into the meat. We roasted it slowly, and then halfway through, slathered it with a mustard rub containing thyme, Dijon, olive oil, and more rosemary. We let it sit in its own juices as it roasted. We tented it with foil when it was done.