Tuesday, March 07, 2006

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.

4 Comments:

Blogger Christine said...

Thank you for this Lillet! So beautiful and so right on.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

1) You're brill.

2) I'm a mostly unapologetic carnivore, but when I was about 8, my mother served a meal she called "beef shanks." I ate it, raved about it, asked to have it on my birthday--and then Mom cracked up and told the truth: it was lamb. She knew I wouldn't have eaten it if I'd known. I stormed off to my room, and later presented my mom with a piece of notebook paper featuring an awkwardly drawn fuzzy lamb under the words "Liar! Murderer!"

It's not like I don't see the hypocrisy in eating beef but not lamb (at 8 or 31), but man... there really is something different about lambs. Maybe it's the gamboling.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Lillet Langtry said...

Isn't it amazing how parents just out and out LIE to you? I mean, there are some things kids don't need to know, but to deliberately lie...I don't know. That's a great story.

8:46 AM  
Blogger -GK said...

Brilliant.

I can't bear to eat lamb -or veal - and I am slowing working my way re: other meats. A word of caution to you as we approach the Easter holiday- if you walk by Italian bakeries you will see "daed lamb" cakes. No, not meat pies or anything like that, but fluffy buttercake made with a lamb shaped cake pans, topped with frosting. Red frosting is used on the neck as a metaphorical depiction of the murder of the Savior. It is horrifying: windows filled with slaughtered lamb cakes, for Easter parties. (!?!?!?!?!?)

11:44 AM  

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