From The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon.
Let me begin without ceremony.
Lamb For Eight Persons Four Times
In addition to one iron pot, two sharp knives, and four heads of lettuce, you will need the following:
For the Whole
1 leg of lamb (The largest the market will provide. If you are no good with a kitchen saw, have the chops and the shank cut through. Do not, however, let the butcher cut it up. If he does, you will lose eight servings and half the fun.)
For the Parts
Olive oil (olive oil)
Onions, carrots, mushrooms, and parsley
Salt, Pepper (freshly ground), bay leaf, marjoram
Stock (any kind but ham; water only in desperation)
Wine (dry red — domestic or imported — as decent as possible)
Broad noodles (or staetzle, potatoes, rice, or toast)
Olive oil (again)
Salt, pepper (keep the mill handy), and thyme (judiciously)
Oregano is also possible, but it is a little too emphatic when you get to III.
Wine (dry white–even French Vermouth–but not Sherry. Save that. Or drink it while you cook.)
Spinach (a lot)
Cheese (grated: Parmesan or Cheddar; or perhaps Feta–anything with a little sharpness and snap)
Mayonnaise (not dietetic and not sweet)
Sherry (only a drop, but Spanish)
Bread (homemade; two loaves) and butter (or margarine, if you must)
Oil (peanut oil, if you have any; otherwise olive)
Shredded cabbage (bean sprouts, if you have money to burn)
Sherry (if you have any left)
Stock (as before, but only a little)
Rice (cooked, but not precooked)
Soy sauce (domestic only in desperation)
Onions, carrots, celery, turnip
Oil, fat, or butter
Barley (or chick-peas or dried beans–or all three)
Salt, pepper, and parsley (rosemary?)
(Macaroni and shredded cabbage are all possible. A couple of tomatoes give a nice color.)
Recipes fascinate me. In fact, the book series that started this recipe obsession with Perfection Salad is the series that is republishing Capon’s book. Recipes are a gustatory snapshot into another life. Like driving past homes at dusk and peeking into their yet-to-be-shaded windows. You see quirks, taste (or lack there of), humor. You see humanity.
I can honestly say that part of me likes reading the recipes more than preparing and eating the menus they describe. But I am the one who learned to swim from a book, ectomorph that I am, hidden in this endomorphic-looking costume. I fool no one into thinking that I’m a mesomorph, that’s for sure.
But this recipe — Capon’s “Lamb for Eight Persons” — this is a poem. There are no measurements, only instincts. There are no brand names, only small jabs at modern movie-sets-of-flavor like dietetic mayo and oleo. ::shudder:: There are not even any instructions, only a gathering of good things.
This is the way Babette cooks, I think. And Jesus. I really think that Jesus would cook like Capon.