Saturday, 5 December 2015

Kiwi rack of lamb (Αρνάκι Νέα Ζηλανδίας)

A kiwi rack of lamb, bought on 50% discount at the Marinopoulos supermarket, originally priced at 22 euro. A long long time had passed since I had last bought a kiwi rack of lamb. At this price, it seemed the right time to do so now.

Cretan lamb is much much smaller, somewhat scrawnier than kiwi lamb. A Cretan lamb chop always feels like I'm eating a lollipop meatball. We don't often eat lamb because we prefer beef and pork. So when I saw it on special, I thought it would be a meal I would enjoy cooking and eating, to remember (much) older times.

I'm now very used to Cretan lamb, which is smaller than Greek lamb raised in the mainland. Although we also buy French and Dutch meat (where our main meat imports - beef, pork and chicken - come from), we buy only Greek lamb. So this kiwi meat smelt very different in my kitchen. I remembered the first time I smelt Greek lamb cooking in the oven of a small Greek home kitchen. At the time, for me, it stunk. Nowadays, it smells quite neutral to me. I am more likely to detect the scent of the wine it's soaked in, and the herbs and spices used to cook it, than the meat itself.

I tried to recall the smells in our NZ house when we cooked kiwi lamb, but I couldn't remember them. I couldn't even remember the smell of kiwi meat as my mother cooked it before we went to church, so that our Sunday roast could be ready when we returned home. I remembered nothing. Nothing! Like I had never even been there.

The smell of the rack of lamb in my kitchen smelt wrong. The smell was pretty strong. No doubt, someone would notice soon. So I soaked the lamb in wine, doused it in spices and cooked it for ages, hoping that the smell would somehow go away (or at least, stay hidden). But that smell didn't go away. Even though it was somehow veiled by the seasonings, it had now permeated the kitchen on this rather cold Saturday.

"What's that smell, Mum?" my son asked me, making me feel rather nervous.

"That looks so good!" my daughter said, comforting me somewhat as she saw me taking out the roast from the oven.

"Is it cooked through?" my husband asked, which is usually his main concern with meat. I could see it falling off the bone. My husband then noted that his father had once bought kiwi lamb when he was young and his mother cooked it, but the smell put them off, and it was left uneaten.

Oh, shit, I thought. But times have changed: "Whoever isn't hungry isn't obliged to eat," I reminded everyone. We all sat down for dinner.

The rack of lamb looked huge as it sat in the roasting pan. I'd had to cut it in half to make it fit. I wondered if we would get through it, especially if mutiny was declared (over the smell, which was faint, but still quite discernible). Things turned out well. The lamb was really quite OK. Some comments were made about the differences noted when compared to the lamb we usually cook at home. The smell was apparent to all (I knew it!), so I was ready with my wine-and-spices story. I remembered the price of that rack of lamb (information that I kept to myself), and I praised myself for landing such a bargain. Should I have bought two pieces at that price, I wondered. The supermarket freezer had quite a few of them in stock (all bearing the 50% discount sticker).

I took a bite, concealing my own hesitation. Any second thoughts I had about this rack of lamb had to remain in my head. Poor thing, I thought, it's like it had landed in a house full of loud opinionated (ie obnoxious) people, an invited guest who was regarded as a freak. Make yourself at home, they all said to it as they poked it prodded it, exposing its foreigness in all the ways possible. I felt embarrassed, almost ready to apologise to the visitor for any offence we may have caused.

Perhaps these awkward feelings might not have arisen, had the company been different. But it's much easier for me to change the meat than it is the company. Greek lamb or kiwi lamb, it will make little difference to me. The sooner I don't have to cook, the more quickly I will enjoy my food, Όπου γη και πατρίς - the origin of the lamb will make no difference.

(Note to myself: Next lamb dish - Greek-style fricassee, with lettuce from our garden. Do not use kiwi meat. Wrong smell.)

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