That may seem like rather a low standard of success, but I’ve had food poisoning and believe me, there’s no way I would want to inflict that on anyone, so any meal without salmonella is a good one in my book.
The food in question was a leg of lamb, locally raised. Well, actually, the farmer raised the entire lamb, not just the leg.
I had it boned, which means deboned. Boy, our language is weird. You’d think a boned leg of lamb would be the one with the bone still in it, and … excuse me. Back to the story.
I opened it up and slathered it with marinade made of 2 cups of plain yogurt, a 1/3 cup of olive oil, 8 minced cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup of mint leaves, also minced. I let the lamb rest in its yogurt bath for a couple of hours. Then I removed as much of the marinade as possible and slapped that leg onto the grill. The leg, not mine.
And it was the charcoal grill, I should say. I am one of those purists who believe that you’re only grilling if you’re cooking over wood or charcoal.
(I realize there are those who believe just as strongly about gas grills as I do about charcoal. That’s OK. It’s a big world, and there’s plenty of room for both sides, mine and the wrong one.)
Coals or gas, I’ve always found it interesting that cooking becomes a man’s job when it moves outside. Guys who couldn’t make a bowl of oatmeal become “masters of the universe” (tongs and spatula division) when there are burgers to be grilled or hot dogs to be roasted.
I think it has to do with the fact that it involves fire, which speaks to our inner caveman. We may have smartphones and lace-up shoes, but there’s part of us that still sits and grunts appreciatively at the sight of dancing flames. Or dancing dames, if you go in for that sort of entertainment. The caveman behavior applies there too, although the less said about that, the better.
Then again, cooking over an open fire could just as well be speaking to our inner pyromaniac. Maybe the less said about that, the better as well.
And maybe for men of a certain age – we so-called baby boomers – it connects us to our postwar dads, the ones we see in the old home movies wearing “Kiss The Cook” barbecue aprons as they immolate great honking slabs of beef and gigantic racks of ribs.
My dad was famous – in his mind at least – for garlic-and-butter-basted chicken cooked on a spit. It was delicious and smelled wonderful as it cooked. Flocks of neighborhood kids would come to our backyard just to stand in the drifting smoke and sniff.
Which is what I did, briefly, when my garlicy, minty, yogurty leg of lamb was cooking. The smell of the charring meat was almost overpowering. But I had to ask myself if that’s all it was. Maybe there was something more – the pull of memories and the promise of springtime.
Or maybe I was just hungry.