Springtime and lamb

Written by Litsa Bolontzakis on. Posted in My thoughts

Lamb, and the Controversy That Surrounds It

Springtime and lamb – they go so well together . . . When I was growing up in Greece, food – and cooking in general – was seasonal, and the lamb was always associated with spring. Lamb has a very delectable taste, a taste that, if you love lamb, you don’t want to disguise it.

Here are a few facts about lamb:

lamb

  • In general, lambs are weaned on grass and are under one year of age.· 
  • Baby lamb” refers to milk-fed lamb slaughtered at between six and eight weeks of age (it’s also known as “hothouse lamb”).
  • “Spring lamb” is milk-fed lamb between three and five months of age.
  • “Mutton” is sheep that’s over one-year-old and typically slaughtered by two years of age.
  • Lamb is best if it has been allowed to graze in, as the French say, prés salés, or salty fields that are close to the sea, where the grass has a nice salty flavor.

I don’t think there is a Greek person alive who doesn’t like lamb!We have many ways of cooking lamb, but the most popular is on the spit, plain and simple – it never disappoints!

People today try so hard to cook lamb in very complicated ways, and the only thing they accomplish is to create a recipe that makes lamb taste like beef, or like something other than lamb.

Why, why, why?

If you like beef that much, then have beef. Don’t go to the trouble of making lamb taste like beef. Lamb has to taste like lamb, and beef should taste like beef, and so on. That is the magic of variety!

I find that Americans don’t really like lamb. In fact, only 20% of Americans will eat lamb, and I bet they are the Greek population living in the States.

OK … but why?

Is it because of the price of lamb, or the way of cooking lamb, or is it maybe because of the “Mary had a little lamb” story and all the feelings that the nursery rhyme brings up?

In order to know if you like something, you have to taste it in its perfect, most simple form. Here is how I like my lamb prepared: Ask your butcher for some fresh spring lamb chops; generously season them with salt, pepper, and oregano. Then broil each side on medium for five to six minutes. When done, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on them, if you like, and VOILÀ – perfection!

No marinating is necessary if the lamb is fresh. I like the fact that, in Greece, the butcher is the owner of the tavern, and the meat goes straight from his table to the fire with just the seasonings I mentioned above. It’s just magnificent!

Add a wonderful Greek salad, homemade fried potatoes, some Greek feta cheese, and retsina, and you have the perfect meal.Cooking lamb is easy and down-to-earth; play with it more than necessary, and you will taste something . . . but it won’t be lamb!

Enjoy the glorious season of spring, with its many gifts!

Litsa!

PS: Retsina, a white wine, is the national wine of Greece.

PPS: Did you get how much I love lamb?

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Litsa Bolontzakis

Litsa Bolontzakis

Children's book and cookbook author Litsa Bolontzakis is an expert on Greek cooking and that culture's easy, simple way of life. Her desire is to help other families learn from her culture how to appreciate the simple things in life and grow to enjoy the seasons and the gifts they bring.

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