o this it’s time for this week’s Cookbook Review. Where are all the OTHER week’s reviews, I hear you asking. Listen, I am a busy person and not every week gets it’s own review. Some weeks are not that special and some weeks I just wind up being a heavy Chick-Fil-A consumer. BUT! This week IS special because it’s halloween, and so we are cooking from the book “Bones” by Jennifer McLagan, to fit in with the whole scary skeleton theme. Whooooo!
“Bones” is delicious – strictly for carnivores only, though. The vegetarians among us may take umbrage at the description of how gelatin is made (don’t read before eating jell-o), how cooking with bone-in meat keeps a dish moist and flavorful, and most importantly, what a marrow spoon is for. Mmmmm. Your shins will feel weird for about an hour after you read that bit.
The recipes are great – I’ve eaten most of the lamb chapter, even though eating lamb makes me feel slightly guilty – and they are mostly my favorite kind of food, which is to say things you stick in a roasting pan with a half a bottle of wine and some veggies and let them cook for hours, until the house smells so good you are ready eat the furniture. Don’t do that though. The book is divided up into chapters by the actual critter it came from, and in the beginning of the chapter there is an illustration that show said creature as a transparent butcher’s diagram, so you can see where, say, that beef shank you plan to rub with olive oil, braise, and serve with citrus gremolata, was originally attached to the owner’s body. Did you know the “picnic shoulder” on a pig is not actually the shoulder at all, but the lower end of the front leg? I had no idea. The artist who did the drawings left the head on, so to speak – it is rendered normally instead of the skeleton effect, and so as you study the diagram of the cow it seems to be looking at you out of the corner of it’s eye. Maybe it wonders why you are drooling. The lamb chapter features a drawing of a full grown sheep, ostensibly because there is a mutton recipe in there but really to save the sensibilities of weenies like me.
“Bones” (whoooo!) also has a series of vingettes about uses for bones, bones in art, and the way bones and words for bones have become part of language – did you know fibula is latin for pin, because Romans used that bone to make clothing pins – and a great collection of expressions that mention bones – I feel it in my bones. I am worn to the bone. Rolling the bones. Hard work breaks no bones. And so on. They show how integral bone was at an earlier time in history, when there were no plastics and the flexibility of bone gave it a thousand practical uses, from buttons to tools, to pins to jewelry, yet retained its mystical significance and was used in magic, superstition, and medicine. There is an expression “bone useful”, i.e. good for all manner of things, and yes, it was.