A Bone to Pick
Being from Kansas City I have gnawed on my share of rib bones. I have always felt it to be the most crude and yet satisfying display of carnivorism. Grease and bar-b-q sauce dripping from knuckle to elbow with a good smear of it across the lower face shows that I know what stalking prey is all about. I look primitive. I feel primitive. And that is not pretty on a girl.
So now I have found a refined way to get the most from an animal bone; in formal dress with no less than a silver spoon. It is eating the marrow from a bone much bigger than any rib. At a restaurant in Dijon called La Ruelle my friend ordered it and I was stunned at the size of these bovine leg bones. They were cut and arranged on her plate like little industrial smoke stacks with the slightest steam rising from the warm center. In that center, where I'm accustomed to seeing either nothing or a dog treat there is a gooey translucent substance with juice or warm fat pooling around the outer edges. This is the marrow and it closely resembles something I am psychotically not fond of- visible animal fat. Grizzle is what I called it as a kid and to this day it does not pass my lips if I have any control over it. If a crafty interloper passes the incisors, it is quickly dispatched into a napkin regardless of who I am sitting across the table from. It could be the Pope. If it were a religious order to not eat visible animal fat, like no pork for Jewish people, the pontiff would be proud of my resolve. But alas, it is seen as juvenile at best, disgusting at worst, and still my addictive aversion abides.
However, I said I would try the marrow before I saw it. Of course I never imagined what it would look like. Thankfully you don't eat it straight as it is served with accompaniment. My patient friend prepared my bite, carefully spooning the marrow onto a slice of the wonderfully crusty bread of France. With the measured carelessness afforded only to people with more worldly food experience than I, she sprinkled fleur de mer sea salt over the glistening lump and handed it my way. I'm in a food course where adventurousness is admired. I couldn't play the vegetarian card, because I've never professed to be one and I couldn't feign a stomach ailment because I had a plateful of cassis- sauced pink shrimp staring at me from my spot at the dining table. I wasn't about to totter off to the bathroom moaning in my best Meryl Streep and risk the seafood being whisked away in my best interest. So I had no choice but to try it and be enthusiastic about it.
To say it was life altering would be melodramatic, but it did cut the tether to my youthful knee-jerk reaction to its appearance. The bread carried the marrow and its juice to all corners of my mouth. As I chewed I felt it spread like warm massage oil over my teeth, gums, and tongue- spreading the subtly beefy flavor towards my throat. As with all things glorious, the bite was over too fast. But before I could form a tear of remorse that it had disappeared- I sensed its flavor lingering there- mercifully suspended by the protective armour of fat- the marrow's spirit hung on. I was so grateful. Its persistence made up for the fact that there is not much of it. Each bite is to be savored and beloved for at least five minutes, then followed by a small sip of Cotes de Nuit. The wine seemed like a long lost lover of the bite I had just taken and as they reunited on my tastebuds I groaned a little. Opening my eyes I realized I made a bit of a scene for my friends and thankfully none of the other diners noticed. Or if they did, they acted like they didn't notice, and that is a nice thing about the French. They do that.
So I would suggest if there is a way, try marrow for the first time with people you won't be embarrassed in front of- or at least with French people. Because while your reaction may not be as wanton as mine there will be some sort of pause while you ponder what you've just consumed because it is unlike anything in the common repertoire of daily dining.