ALL FLOCKED UP A Lamb Jammer tackling a menu that ranged from lamb with kimchi to lamb hot dogs.
On February 20, eight women gathered in an anodyne conference room in the Charles Hotel to eat and pass judgment on 17 courses of lamb. I was one of them.
For the first hour, food runners plied me with lamb dishes at five-minute intervals. I ate deep-fried quail eggs breaded with lamb shoulder. I ate lamb angnolotti with balsamic vinegar and chocolate. Lamb with mascarpone. Lamb with blood oranges and dates. Lamb hot dogs. Lamb potato chips. Lamb-neck ravioli. Lamb with hominy. Lamb with pistachio vinaigrette. Lamb with kimchi. Lamb with orange and tomato chutney. Lamb with pea gelée and carrot foam. Lamb jerky with rosemary and sea salt. Lamb sliders with minted pickles. Lamb with grits and something called money beans.
For the third time, Boston played host to the multi-city lamb cook-off known as the Lamb Jam. The event was sponsored by the American Lamb Board, an industry-funded interest group that matched area chefs with locally sourced lambs and drooling foodies.
It matched me with judges whose knowledge far outstripped mine. They knew how to prepare pommes daupin. They knew enough about Scotch eggs to remark on their consistency and the right way to use truffles in salad dressing. In retrospect, I should have known I was in trouble after the first dish, when I was the only judge to clean her plate.
Lamb Jam is part of a growing trend of animal-specific food events. Last month, I attended Cochon 555, a festival of the pig. A number of women got dressed up in stilettos and evening gowns to stuff their faces with lardo, bacon cookies, and a delightful little nugget known as the Pig Newton. Ever so often, a silence would descend over the ballroom as the crowd reveled in its porcine bounty. "I'm just so happy," I heard more than one reveler sigh.
As B. R. Myers notes in a recent anti-foodie polemic in The Atlantic, "It has always been crucial to the gourmet's pleasure that he eat in ways the mainstream cannot afford," and that "free-range meats from small, local farms" taste all the better because they are inaccessible to the general public.
Indeed, Cochon 555 carried a steep $150 price tag (Lamb Jam, a more modest $50). The atmosphere at the pig party was decadent, as was the food — chefs fried donuts in pig fat and wrapped bacon skewers in cotton candy.
And yet, as our emcee insisted repeatedly, our feast was in service of a serious cause: we were not merely gorging on pork, they assured us, but helping to raise awareness on issues of family farmers and sustainability.
Helpful or not, by the end we were stuffed and suffering from the pork sweats. A slight woman sharing my table asked for directions to the vomitorium. I experienced a moment of personal horror when I noticed the viewfinder of my camera was covered in pig grease.