A friend of mine, Karl Young-Mays (author of The Couch), once proposed that if Jesus hadn't placed so much meaning into the ways of lamb, using them as the ideal for human conduct, we wouldn't find them so delicious. "Our eating of lamb," he said as we sat in a cafe on Capitol Hill, "has a cannibalistic element."
I was unmoved by this argument; indeed no argument, no shocking theories, could persuade me to stop eating those lovable creatures.
Another friend of mine, a Portland professor by the name of Barbara Robertson Drake, sees it my way. In her brilliant book Peace at Heart, she identifies the double pleasures of lamb: one, raising them because they are pleasing to watch; two, cooking them because their meat is incomparable. Because she is a recognized expert on the subject, I asked her to describe how she roasts her own homegrown lamb, and she replied with this vivid answer, which made my mouth water: "There are two ways to cook a lamb roast, depending on the cut and the menu: pink at the center or really well done, and either way is good. For a nice leg or rack of lamb, a little pink is good, but we usually go with the sort of Greek style of searing it in a little olive oil and then roasting it covered till it falls off the bone. Either way, I like to roast it with some rosemary sprigs (from the garden) and garlic, the garlic either made into a paste with some lemon juice and olive oil and spread over it, or cut into slivers and pushed into cuts in the meat. I don't salt it till it's served, because salt on the roasting meat tends to dry it out.
"When the roast is done, I pour off the drippings and then skim the fat off that, then pour any skimmed juice back over the sliced meat on the platter. Then salt and pepper it and serve. The nice thing about lamb is that it goes very well with other pungent foods, such as oven-roasted potatoes (peeled, with olive oil and lemon or herbs), Greek salads, Nicoise salad (potatoes, olives, eggs, olive oil, anchovies, etc.), curried rice with nuts and raisins, or curried roast potatoes -- even plain old whipped potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes. Lots of those very flavorful Mediterranean-type foods, and of course, good, sturdy wines and green salads. The taste of our own pinot, or the chardonnay -- either is really good with lamb."