Thursday morning, I woke early to the sound of birdsong and the slight chill of the breeze pushing through the two open windows of my bedroom. And though I woke peacefully and easily, there was the sense that I had been working through some things in my sleep, untying a knot that had just come loose. It became clear then that I would fast from food for the following 48 hours. This was not some sort of religious observance, nor was it an attempt to tighten up my midsection. In the weeks prior, I had been reading about and meditating on the idea of human desire: how one’s attachment to ‘things’ can shape one’s entire life.
The morning and afternoon came and went without event. My work always keeps me busy, and it’s not out of the ordinary for me to skip breakfast and lunch. But when I returned home, it was odd not walking into the kitchen and preparing dinner. And though I wasn’t plagued with intense hunger, the evening hour seemed to crawl. It was my night, more than my stomach, that seemed empty. This made increasingly clear the idea that food is more a source of entertainment than a means to nourish my body. I prepared a cup of tea and fell asleep.
Day two brought more thoughts about food: giant bowls of bibimbap, piled high with steaming vegetables and meat and seasoned with toasty sesame oil, crispy rice sticking to the sides of the ferociously hot stone pot; a french fried potato, heavily salted and dipped in the most impossibly creamy garlic aioli; a biscuit smothered in spicy sausage gravy and topped with a fried egg over easy. And yet, amidst the deluge of the most indulgent pleasures of food, there were no hunger pangs. There was no sense of weakness. In fact, I felt alert and sharp. As Friday evening fell, even the thoughts began to fade. I spent the day’s last hours on a terrace with my wife. I sipped cold clear water. I watched the sun fall. The crickets chirped. A bird alighted. I fell asleep.
In the morning, another knot had been untied. The fast was over. We drove to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for the meal that would break my 48 hour fast. I decided on roasted leg of lamb, a meat I had (oddly) never cooked before. Throughout the day, I ate judiciously: a ripe peach in the morning, a green salad for lunch. I wanted to approach the evening meal without the sense that I was ravenous or that I just couldn’t wait any longer.
Here is what I made:
Roast Leg of Lamb with Gremolata
2 lbs boneless leg of lamb
1 cup red wine
1 medium shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 lemons, zested and juiced
7 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1/4 bunch parsley, chopped
1 tbsp salt
2 tsps black pepper
2 tbsps olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. After prepping the shallot, garlic, lemon zest, rosemary and parsley, put them in a medium bowl. Add the salt and pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and stir to create a thick paste.
After placing the lamb in a shallow roasting pan, cover it completely with the gremolata. Add two more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan along with the cup of red wine. Place the lamb in the oven and allow it to cook for 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
Remove the lamb from the oven and let it sit on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Slice the lamb against the grain into 1/4 inch thick pieces.
When the lamb had been cut, it was served over blistered pita bread with parsley salad, dill yogurt sauce, and ricotta salata. There were olives of all kinds and chilled red wine at the table.
Maybe only when you’ve given it all up can you have it all back again.