Warning: Explicit images
I know that you are fine with the piece of lamb roast above. Ok, some of you readers are vegetarians, but just a few; and some don’t like lamb. But most of you have no problem with eating lamb. You all have had your Easter lamb roast, haven’t you? Leg of lamb, lamb shoulder, as is here the case, even a rack of lamb. You eat it, the braver ones among you have cooked it.
This is already where it starts to get touchy for some. See, I have friends who tell me that they “eat meat as long as it doesn’t look like the animal it comes from”. Last time a friend told me this, I started thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against vegetarians. I am an omnivore, but not only do I think everyone should make the food choices he is comfortable with, I even have empathy with vegetarians. I really can understand if someone has problems with the taste or health implications of meat or with the conditions most animals are kept and slaughtered. But why eat meat if you don’t want it to look, smell, taste the part? Why should another being get killed for you if you do not acknowledge or enjoy it? Isn’t all these meat-eating-but-not-caring-for-it people the reason (well, part of it at least) for the mass production, the cruelty, the low quality?
This is where it gets really touchy:
Roman cuisine, actually a poor man’s cuisine, uses all parts of animals. The innards are called “the fifth quarter”, all the parts that the butcher gets after selling more noble parts to the well-off. Well, let me tell you, the poor in Rome have been eating tasty dishes!
My favorite butcher in Rome, Annibale (that really is his name, don’t you also think he chose the right profession?), after testing me during my first visits, finally decided I am to be trusted and won’t run away shrieking if he gives me the head belonging to the lamb shoulder (actually a quarter of a lamb, since his lamb are so small). He sent me away with a couple of suggestions, but I already knew what I wanted to do with it.
The split-in-half head went into the hot oven, dressed with a couple of drops of olive oil. When it looked done, I scooped out the brains, cut the tongue out, picked the little scraps of meat on the cheeks. With the roasted and now naked skull I made a stock, added a can of tomatoes (it is too early in the year to be using fresh ones), the bits I had pried away and cooked my pasta directly in this sauce. Yes, it tasted of innards, a deep and satisfying taste. Cheap, simple, humble food fit for gods. And that lamb, it didn’t live and die in vain!