Your mother didn’t cook. She tried, when your parents were married. She really did. But meats burned, casseroles sank, vegetables tasted gritty. You remember one night when your father smashed his fist on the table and your shiksa mother’s alcoholic hands trembled as he yelled, “You’re a failure as a woman, as a wife. As a mother. You can’t even cook!” You, meanwhile, thought of Popeye and chewed until the crunch of dirt became one with the unclean spinach. They were twenty-two years old when they married. So young. When they divorced you were four. Six weeks after the divorce, he married a woman who was not only a rabbi’s daughter, but also a talented cook. The bitch.
The impulse to self-nourish is hard won. You spent years chasing destructive lovers, ecstatic sex, and trampling both your bodily and psychic limits in your furious desire for oblivion. When you became strangely inspired to cook earlier this summer, after almost five decades on planet Earth, you pretty much started from scratch.
A culinary virgin, yes, but butchery is in your blood. Your last name, Resnick, derives from the Polish word rzeznik, which means “to cut.” Resnick also means shochet, a ritual slaughterer, back when rituals still meant something.
You look up Jewish butchery methods for the meat you are about to cook, hoping to channel your ancestors even though all you have to do is trim the “silver” and expose the rib bones of an already partially butchered lamb. But you are afraid to do even this. You learn the most important element of butchery according to Jewish dietary law is draining all the blood.
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11).
Blood spilled on the altar must be pure and free flowing for a sacred rite to succeed—and afterward, all traces wiped away. According to the Talmud, to prepare an approved animal for food, shackle and hoist. You attach a chain to the animal’s foot, hoist it upside down and slit its throat with a razor-sharp knife as quickly as possible to lessen pain. The Talmud instructs that the butchery be done with an attitude of reverence. Today, this method is considered barbaric and mostly banned. You wonder how your lamb was butchered. Did it suffer?
You place the vacuum-sealed lamb rack on a new cutting board. This one’s for meat only, to help prevent the spread of dangerous flesh-born bacteria. You’re the type who goes to a special travel doctor to get up-to-date immunizations before visiting foreign countries, certain you will be the one who contracts dengue fever. You even move to the other side of the movie theater if someone so much as sniffles.
Working with raw meat makes you extra anxious. Is there such a thing as mad lamb disease? You imagine meat eaters frothing at the mouth, dropping dead at the table. Remember news footage from that mad cow disease outbreak in Britain: cattle huddled together, then shot, then shoved into gaping ditches. Cloven hooves tumbling. You couldn’t sleep for days. What if they were bleating lambs? Maybe you should turn vegetarian.
Scream Like a Girl
Jan 30, 08:40 PMPurchase or Subscribe to Slake: Los Angeles
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