When I think of lamb chops, three things come to mind. First, of course, is how wonderful they taste and how pleased I was with this week's take on lamb chop marination. The juice of one lemon, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a clove of crushed garlic and about three sprigs of minced rosemary marinating for half a day lends wonderful ruffles and flourishes to one of my favorite meats. Grill just until it's deeply pink and you have a heavenly meal.
But there are a couple of other mental associations I make with lamb chops. One such was the wonderful '60s puppet, Lamb Chop who always made me laugh. I don't think there's a more talented ventriloquist than Shari Lewis was. Her routine with the Baby still cracks me up.
Perhaps my favorite memory involving a lamb chop happened back in the '70s and it's a favorite because it's dramatic but it has a happy ending.
One of the most wonderful people I have ever known was a lovely woman named Bobbie Davenport. Small and slender, but with a vavavoom sort of figure, she wore 4" heels and a mink coat when she was dressed to go out on the town but was just as comfortable in jodhpurs and boots, or a pair of baggy shorts and a bra on a hot summer day.
Although she was of my parents' generation, she insisted on being called "Bobbie," rather than "Mrs. Davenport." She was Butchie's wife and a wonderful woman in her own right. Not only did she produce four marvelous kids, she also rode horses, rescued all sorts of wildlife, raised many generations of kittens that all found good homes or never left, recorded books on tape for people with limited sight, volunteered in the library at her kids' school, cooked like a dream although she didn't really like to eat, and grew flowers and vegetables like a pro despite the depredations of several determined generations of woodchucks. She had an ongoing war with the woodchucks, muttering darkly when they raided her garden and threatening to get out her shotgun and send them to hell. Of course, she'd never have done such a thing - she loved all wildlife - so we always laughed out loud at her threats.
She was forthright, tough as nails, fair-minded and loving. She listened to Beethoven, Cole Porter and Petula Clark with equal appreciation, enjoyed a spirited political discussion and smoked a rhinestone-sprinkled pipe when she ran out of cigarettes. Bobbie opened her home to all kinds of strays and waifs, be they animal or human, including me on numerous occasions. If I didn't already have a terrific mother, I'd have been tempted to trade mine in for Bobbie. I loved her dearly for all these reasons and many more. I felt an immediate bond with her because we were both animal lovers and neither of us has ever fit into any pigeonhole.
One afternoon, Bobbie had used the oven and, when she was finished, cracked the door open to let the oven cool off. One of her many Burmese cats used that opportunity to climb inside where it was toasty warm to have a nap. That evening, lamb chops were on the menu; Bobbie closed the door and turned on the broiler in preparation, not knowing the cat was in the oven. Here's the happy ending - Bobbie heard the cat's wails, threw open the door and out flew the cat, only slightly singed in the fur department. The almost-broiled cat was fine and, ever after, we called her Lamb Chop.
When I grill lamb chops, all sorts of associations add to the pleasure of the meal. If Bobbie is up in heaven having a cocktail with Butchie, Shari Lewis and my parents at the end of a celestial day, I hope they are having marinated lamb chops for dinner.