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A Time to Feast — Roasted Lamb

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

I (A)
Olive oil (olive oil)
Garlic (fresh)
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)

I (B)
Olive oil (again)
Garlic
Onions
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.)

II
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)

III
Oil (peanut oil, if you have any; otherwise olive)
3 eggs
Onions
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)

IV
Onions, carrots, celery, turnip
Oil, fat, or butter
Barley (or chick-peas or dried beans–or all three)
Water
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.

4 thoughts on “A Time to Feast — Roasted Lamb

  1. If Jesus (or anyone else) makes this, you can be sure of one thing — they will need one big pot.

    Still, most of these ingredients are unnecessary and a poor use of good lamb. If you’ve got lamb, cut it into stew sized pieces and brown in. Then add a can of Guinness, two onions (sauteed in butter first), a couple of potatoes, salt, pepper, and beef broth. Enjoy (fiddle music optional).

  2. Grant — this is another reason why I rarely even try to be another other than serious. For reasons only partially understandable to me, it never comes out right. At the risk of being pedantic or petty . . .

    I’m familiar with Farrar Capon’s book (through mom) and am thus familiar with the author’s points. By all accounts, it’s a marvelous read. And I *think* I get where Camille’s going with her take on Farrar Capon (although she likes talking in riddles and I’m no Bilbo Baggins). But even if I’m wrong there, I *wasn’t trying to respond to her points or make any of my own* — I was being mildly flippant about Jesus needing a bigger pot (when, of course, He can do whatever He likes however He likes) and thinking about good uses for lamb because I’d just made the Irish Stew I mentioned. If you’re ever in Chicago singing, stop by, and I’ll make you some (unless you object to Guinness, which I doubt).

    Ok. Lesson learned.

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