Saturday, February 14, 2015

Eating Lamb -- And Its Terrible Aftermath

I really like lamb. According to my mother, it was one of my favorite varieties of baby food until my father stopped her from feeding it to me. He was a poultry, pork and beef man, and anything else was off the table. We didn't even eat very much fish -- just some frozen fish sticks now and then and a perch or two that I dragged out of our pond on occasion and cajoled my mother into frying up for me. That's probably why I didn't grow up to be a big hobby fisherman like so many of my friends. My father didn't fish, so he didn't take me out on any of those father-son-bonding fishing trips.

Anyway I did not eat lamb for another 40 years. I never even knew that I had liked it so much as a baby since I stopped getting it before I was a year old. Occasionally the mess hall would serve up some tough and nearly tasteless mutton strips when I was in the army. It was, like all army food, mostly tasteless and only marginally edible -- nothing to write home about. And, looking back on it, it certainly didn't taste like lamb.

I rediscovered lamb several years after I got out of the service when I was living in Portland, Oregon, and stumbled onto a sure-'nough genuine and authentic gyro shop. This was the kind actually owned by a Greek couple who could hardly speak English but he was an expert at carving off just the right amount of meat from that vertical rotisserie, in perfect slices to wrap up with that pita bread and fill with Feta cheese and tzatziki sauce. I ate there pretty much every time I got the opportunity, even after I'd moved away -- I was not above making a special two-hour trip down there just for the gyros.

Once I got together with She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, though, my intake of lamb went down precipitously. She refuses to eat it and for many years she wouldn't even allow it in the house. Whenever I felt like having a lamb gyro, I had to sneak around and get one from a local ersatz Greek lunch-counter whose minimum-wage workers didn't really know what they were doing. But finally a Middle-Eastern cafe opened up a couple of blocks from my office, and while it wasn't technically Greek, it was owned by some refugee Palestinians, a people who had raised and eaten lamb for centuries and knew how it was supposed to be done.

But there is one thing about lamb that most people don't know -- at least the ones who don't eat it. It gives you the most terrible, noxious farts you've ever come across. These are farts that can burn a hole in your tighty-whities, singe your nose hairs, take the rust off a bumper, and strip the wallpaper off the kitchen wall. I don't even have to tell She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed when I've eaten lamb. It becomes patently, odoriferously obvious in about an hour.

She was also raised in a Midwestern meat-and-potatoes family, and she won't eat lamb because they are "little-baby-lambs" and they are "cute". Maybe I wouldn't either if I had to slaughter and butcher one myself -- but I wouldn't eat beef or pork under those circumstances either any more. When I was growing up on the farm, it was a routine thing, come slaughtering time, and it didn't seem to bother me any -- but it probably did, since now I am the first to admit that I am a rank hypocrite when it comes to this kind of thing, one who won't kill his own food, preferring to remain out of sight and let a "hired gun" do it for him.

We were at our local Trader Joe's store the other day and they had, as their "free samples", some lamb kebob meatballs. I ate one, and then ate another one. The demonstration lady asked me if I wanted my wife to try them, but I said no, she won't eat lamb.

"Oh, is she a vegetarian?"

"No, she watches too many cartoons."

But I still scooped up a couple of frozen boxes of those lamb-kebab meatballs, which I stuffed into the bottom of the shopping cart and then hid in the back of the freezer when we got home. When she goes out of town on one of her periodic "antique road trips", I'll be rolling in clover.

And it will feel like I am in church, since I'll be sitting in my own pew...