127/365: National Roast Leg of Lamb Day

There’s no need to feel sheepish about today’s food holiday. May 7 is National Roast Leg of Lamb Day!

A few weeks into the challenge, Tara said we should have been keeping track of how much this little project is costing us. A couple of bucks here, a few dollars there – it all adds up, you know? But it rarely adds up as much as today’s dinner did. For one thing, leg of lamb isn’t the easiest thing in the world to find. For another, it’s expensive. I stopped by my favorite local butcher shop a couple of weeks ago (shout out to Gartner’s!) and was relieved to learn they carried frozen leg of lamb. I was less relieved when the smallest portion they had – a 5 lb. boneless roast – set me back a whopping $44. Ouch. And to think I balked over the $9 Dungeness crab cocktails in Seattle. Even the Peking duck was considerably cheaper. This will probably end up being our most expensive food challenge of the year.

It had better be our most expensive food challenge of the year.

Lamb is to sheep what veal is to cow: a baby. To be classified as lamb, the meat must come from a sheep that is less than a year old, and weighing between 12 and 65 pounds. Too bah-d for the little guy, but it is a pretty tasty meat. I wasn’t even sure I liked lamb until we met up with friends for dinner out one night a couple of months back, and ordered a plate of lamb to share. We all thought it was delicious. Lamb has been considered a good source of both food and clothing for at least 10,000 years, and is particularly popular in Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Farmers in the Middle Ages prized sheep for their versatility: they used the meat for food, wool for clothing, skin for parchment, and milk for butter and cheese. Spanish soldiers brought sheep to North America in 1519, but when it was introduced to the western territories in the 1800s cattle ranchers were put out by the new competition. This may be the reason why lamb has never really caught on in the U.S. as it has in other countries; our average per capita consumption is only one pound per year. Which, incidentally, is about a pound more than I have consumed in my first 44 years combined. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to celebrating this holiday because it represents something new and unusual. I was prepared to be a “sacrificial lamb,” if you will.

Fortunately, I was able to enlist the aid of my mom. Since Tara and I both had to work all day, and we had a big 5-lb. lamb (imported from Australia, it turns out, where roast leg of lamb is the national dish), I asked if she would be interested in roasting the lamb for us, and she agreed. So, a big thanks to my mom for helping out! She also made the baked Alaska earlier this year. I’m happy to report, the lamb turned out delicious. We used this recipe, which included dijon mustard, honey, and fresh rosemary. Even the people at the table who didn’t think they liked lamb, liked this lamb. Well done, mom! Thanks again!

Roast Leg of Lamb

Categories: Meat | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

62/365: National Cold Cuts Day*

Today’s food holiday is a bunch of bologna. Or ham…or salami…or turkey. It’s National Cold Cuts Day! It’s also mulled wine day, but it was lunchtime and we were hungry, so cold cuts it was!

Cold cuts refer to any sliced, precooked or cured meat, and are typically sold in glass delicatessen counters or prepackaged, and are popular in grocery stores and delicatessens. These meats tend to be high in nitrates, fat, and sodium. Which is what makes them so darn good! Just ask Jared, the spokesman for Subway, the most popular sandwich chain in America. If it weren’t for cold cuts, you might end up with a sandwich that was halfway decent, nutrition-wise. (If you’re worried about your health, buy your cold cuts sliced to order; the pre-sliced variety has more preservatives because there is a larger exposed surface. And whatever you do, avoid buying cold cuts in the UK, as theirs are often made with mechanically reclaimed meat and offal. How awful). Cold cuts may get a bad rap, but they’re wildly popular in both sandwiches and party trays. Hey, somebody is buying all that processed meat! In addition to the most common varieties named above, there are a number of, ahem, “exotic” cold cuts, as well. Products like liverwurst and head cheese and tongue loaf. Trust me, bologna ain’t half bad compared with what you could find staring back at you between two slices of bread.

Funny, we’re supposed to be celebrating cold cuts today, but I feel like I’m bashing them. And I enjoy them! Growing up, a fried bologna sandwich with ketchup was one of my faves.

What can I say? I was a weird kid.

Cold cuts have been around since…well, since there were dead animals and cold, I suppose. Oscar F. Mayer was a German immigrant in Chicago who had the wurst job imaginable. Literally: he worked in a meat market that sold liverwurst, bratwurst, and weisswurst. They were one of the sponsors of the Chicago world’s fair in 1893, and by 1900, had 43 employees working for them. Oscar Mayer had a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a, and by 1904 began branding his meats. Not literally, of course. The company became so popular that, in 1936, they built the first Wienermobile and toured the country with it. They remained a family-owned corporation until 1981, when stockholders elected to sell the company to General Foods. They remain a major player in the cold cuts market to this day. And lest you think consuming luncheon meat isn’t good for your health, consider this: Oscar F. Mayer lived to the ripe old age of 96. Hmm. Pass the salami, please!

Tara and I celebrated with club sandwiches for lunch.

Happy "green toppings" day! Just kidding.

Happy “green toppings” day! Just kidding.

Categories: Meat | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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