Sunday, April 04, 2021

behold the lamb

I found a role for my lamb. 

A week ago, I discovered a butterflied leg of lamb at La Comer in Manzanillo (mary had a little --). For me, it was a great culinary discovery. There may be some meat that I like more than lamb. If there is, it is not coming readily to mind.

I suppose I was overly-excited about finding it because lamb is a rare commodity here. Good lamb even rarer. So, I needed to find the right platform to let the meat shine.

The liturgical calendar provided an easy solution. This is Easter weekend and the metaphorical and culinary connections between today and lamb are numerous.

During the year I was stationed in Greece, I celebrated Easter on an Hellenic Air Force Base in 1974. It was my introduction to Greek Easter customs. Dances. Egg-bashing. And, of course, the food. Greeks know how to prepare their lamb. Tender and simple.

The one course of that Easter dinner that I remember the most was a starter. I thought I had been served a baked acorn squash that had been stuffed with various meats. At least, that was what my rather naive Oregon mind was telling me.

It wasn't a baked stuffed acorn squash. It was baked, but it was not stuffed. And it was not an acorn squash. It was a halved lamb's head.

The thought of eating it did not bother me. I just had no idea where to start. A Greek Air Force captain, who I had befriended, told me: "Just eat the tongue. It is good. The rest is not."

Well, I did not have a lamb head to bake today, but I did have that leg of lamb, and I decided to cook it as I learned in Greece. A day-long marinade in lemon, olive oil, oregano, garlic, and lemon juice -- and then a quick grill leaving the lamb just between blue and rare.

Not every lamb can be cooked that lightly. But there is no better test for the quality of lamb than to eat it rare. It should be tender with none of that vaguely-gamey taste that lambs acquire when they are on the verge of muttoning out.

This leg was not the best that I have eaten. Its texture was a little tough; I suspect because it may have been a bit older than quality lamb. Even so, the taste was perfect.

I picked up as many Greek-oriented food items that I could find at Hawaii to create a true Greek Easter feast. Pita bread. Tzatziki. Greek salad. Mint peas. Crete wedding rice. The only thing that was missing was a hall of Greek military families. I could have been at Araxos in 1974. Minus the lamb heads.

One of the greatest dangers in life is trying to recreate a favorite moment in the past. A happy get-together with friends. That day that the sunlight at St. Peter's spotlighted The Pieta. A perfect meal at Enoteca Pinchiorri.

Those moments were special because they perfectly fit the time in which they occurred. And once time passed by, so did the moment. Any attempt to recreate it would be as futile as an opium addict's chase of the dragon.

Today's meal was good because it was new. I had to substitute a number of items that simply do not exist here. And that was fine. Because, instead of wasting my time on a long-gone moment, I created a new memory.

Maybe next Easter I will find something entirely different. I suspect it will not be a lamb's head.

I trust you all had a blessed Easter.

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