Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?
I am at work hitting "redial" on Babbo's reservations line -- I have been asked to make a reservation for 4 on Friday at 7:00, which is about as likely to happen as, say, Scott McClellan telling the truth.
I have eaten at Babbo only once. A friend of mine had found a gift certificate to the restaurant in an old dresser she was refinishing, and generously put it towards a "girls night out." And the food was truly spectacular -- I remember having the soft shell crabs which were unlike any I had ever eaten. I think we also had olive oil gelato. It was an elegant, happy night.
Around redial attempt 21 I look at the online menu online, idly thinking of a possible future date with Trey. And I suddenly felt really sad and ill when I saw this:
Mint Love Letters
with Spicy Lamb Sausage $18
Lamb’s Brain “Francobolli”
with Lemon and Sage $18
In Costa Rica we spent a week at an eco-lodge on the Osa Peninsula, where they had free-range chickens that woke you up in the morning. One of their sheep had given birth four days prior to our arrival. Our new friend Scott, a ten-year old boy who vacationing there for a month with his parents, was totally excited to take Trey and I down the secret path to see the lamb.
As I get older, metaphors seem to plangently, compulsively decouple themselves. Sometimes this delights me: sometimes I feel as if I may go mad. [God help me when I am 90, I will probably just rock back and forth for hours with sweet-bitter tears streaming down my face 24 hours a day.] Because I'd be hard-fucking-pressed to find something more truly innocent than a 5 day old lily-white lamb gamboling, yes, gamboling awkwardly alongside its mother. In fact, I had no right to use the word gambol until I saw this lamb. Every rheorical use of the animal in 31 years of reading now made violent and vivid sense: lamb of God, the lion and the lamb, sacrificial lamb...
So, seeing that one can grind up a lamb and serve its flesh [and now, having written what I just wrote, I find something deeply perverse about the concept of spicy lamb, as if it were the Jon Benet Ramsay of dishes] with Mint Love Letters for $18 -- it just makes me feel, well, weary, sad, and a little crazy, as if the menu featured Spicy Baby Panda Sausage. Sentimental, self-indulgent as you may deem me, I feel like a small girl whose dead friends are on this menu, and I now even feel guilty about the crabs. Having but recently turned this corner in my life, I can't get strident or righteous -- and oh God, am I on my way to becoming that person, the one you all know I mean?
But I can't deny the truth that makes itself resoundingly clear to me every day, that is about more than meat: When we privilege abstraction over empathy, we engage in the practice that can make possible egregious degradations. Our euphemisms and doublespeak are but lurid yellow tape swaddling crime scenes: detainee, merchandise, collateral damage, aerial bombardment, "peppered real good," "separation barrier," "intelligent design," "Culture of Life." Abstraction -- logos. Our dazzling accidental gift, our pearl without price, our probable undoing in the absence of empathy, of wisdom, in the absence of connection. We must unabashedly embrace our contingency -- it is all that can ameliorate our Fall.