Lamb; earthy, succulent and utterly devine. Growing up in my house we ate as much lamb as we could afford. If I had to pick a meat that best describes my family this might be it. Strong in flavor and easily off putting to more sensitive palates (read americans). I come from a line of head strong off putting women. We laugh loudly and have firm opinions on most subjects. We are earthy and slightly mad. My mother, the maddest of the three.
She was the very definition of free spirit. She lived outside most of the rules and deeply instilled in me that if you aren’t following your heart you are betraying yourself. She struggled with this lesson her whole life, reaching for her dreams and never quite grasping them. It has taken me 30+ years to understand what she was trying to teach me. That no matter how hard you fall when you reach beyond your grasp, you pick yourself back up, square your shoulders and push on.
The last meal I made for my mother was leg of lamb. That meal is still so vivid in my mind. Working in her cramped kitchen in Boulder Colorado the night before christmas, annoyed I paid $5 for a bunch of fresh rosemary when it grows like a weed in all my gardens. We roasted potatoes and made artichokes, well out of season, but one of her favorites. She was loopy on pain meds, the cancer was starting to really take it’s toll on her at this point. She was so loopy she dipped a large piece of lamb fat into her dipping butter for the artichoke, fat dripping from her chin, her smile goofy and lopsided content to masticate her fat creation all night. The smell of her perfume and the roasted lamb meat heavy in the air. Bob Dylan working it out on the stereo. It was sadly perfect.
My mother taught me to cook, she taught me to garden. She taught me to be a survivor and her animalistic tenacity showed me how to be a fierce woman who saw the world through the eyes of a sceptic while appreciating all the natural beauty around us. She was one of a kind and even though it was rough going between us for most of it, I am glad she raised me. I celebrate her birthday every year with a special meal. This year I chose lambs neck. It has a special vulnerability to it that I felt was so perfect for her memory.
Lambs neck braised with mint, meyer lemons and garlic served over thyme infused japanese purple sweet potatoes and meyer lemon roasted radishes.
Happy birthday Mom, Thanks for teaching me that different is good and passion is an essential ingredient to life.