I just remade this 7 hour slow-cooked leg of lamb recipe for a spring meal, and was reminded of all the flavors and wonderful chemistry that happens when you cook something in a cozy closed pot for so long.
Yes, this leg of lamb will spend 7 hours in your oven, but will come out so tender you can eat it with a spoon! (Hence it’s French nickname, “agneau à la cuillère”, aka, lamb with a spoon.) This leg of lamb recipe is actually deceptively easy and the prep is very quick. It’s a great centerpiece to an Easter dinner, lunch or any holiday spring meal. If you’re feeding a smaller crowd, you can apply the same recipe to lamb shanks.
And because my mind always wanders from cooking to life’s wider lessons and meandering thoughts on human-ness, this slow-cooked lamb, nurtured for hours in its cozy, humid, warm environment until it’s so tender it falls of the bone, made me think of that “hygge” concept of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. This feeling is the one I seek to create when making a meal for people I love. I think of moist, tender bites of delicious foods, delightful flavors, feeling ourselves, and each other, on this earth, through our food.
I am 100% convinced of the benefits of a slower, less hurried lifestyle. Yet I struggle with this a lot. I’m a single mom, looking after my own mother, I’m now unschooling Pablo, I’m a translator, an assistant preschool teacher, and am rebuilding this blog. I’m blessed with many wonderful friendships and a community I always want to nurture and give time to. In short, boredom isn’t a luxury I’m familiar with. Where can I slow down? Come to think of it, I wouldn’t even know what to do, besides doing less? I can’t control the passing of time, only my experience of time. Here are some intentions I’ve set out to get to that sense of cozy contentment that I think is the point of “slow living”.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how much having time (or taking the time) and feeling free are both sides of the same coin? I feel so much freer when I have the time I need to do things. Like cooking a meal. If we don’t have time and must hurry through the process, it feels like an obligation we’re squeezing in. And chances are, if we’re hurrying, we’ve got an end result in mind, it’s not about the process. When we have time to make a meal, it’s easier to enjoy the process, and it feels relaxing. It feels like something we do with intention, gratifying and grounding. I want to reclaim time for the simpler tasks of every day life, instead of rushing through them, I want to…
Do things for their own sake
I just read this excellent article by Teacher Tom, which speaks volumes against our utilitarian society’s obsession with productivity and results. Let’s focus on process and enjoyment, instead of obligation and results.
[…] the pursuit of happiness must be ends unto themselves, not means to an end. It’s when we attempt to wrangle these highest of goods [love of learning and the pursuit of happiness] into the service of some more prosaic result, like a grade or a score or a certificate or a job, that we begin to undermine the joy in learning, replacing it with sticks. It’s when we begin to make the pursuit of happiness into a hopeless chase after carrots.
This applies so much to how we present eating food to our children and how we view food ourselves. Let us not present the joyful act of sharing a meal and enjoying food as a means to an end, like being healthy, or growing stronger, or pleasing mom & dad. To paraphrase Teacher Tom, in so doing, we would be undermining the joy of eating. Enjoying food ought to be an end in itself, for ourselves and for our children. No ulterior motive. Just enjoyment, appreciation, nourishment of body and soul.
When we do things for their own sake, time slows down. I have a better felt sense of time well spent. When I do something as an end unto itself, it makes it much easier to…
Being present somehow does make life feel slower. One of the great things about our family ritual to eat in courses, is that it creates a space to be present together. This is a time of the day where I’m usually pretty good about not letting my mind be absorbed by the constant mapping of things to do, emails to send, appointments to make… There, while I’m enjoying good food and having conversations with Pablo, I can…
Observe more, do and say less
Being the talkative overachiever recovering perfectionist that I am, this one is tough for me! This is something young children are teaching me to get better at. To just observe, judgement-free, with open mind and curiosity. Practice a deeper kind of listening. Life does feel slower and more grounded when I can be in that mode. Rest assured I would estimate I suck at this at least 60% of the time on a good run, a fact I must…
Accept, not resist
There’s rushing in resisting or countering or fighting. There is tension, a lack of control, a helplessness. It is an exhausting quest. When I accept things I cannot control, I can just be, instead of seek. And life slows down just a bit.
What are your thoughts on “slow living” and the idea of hygge? What’s helpful to you? Cooking and the sharing of meals play a key role in this for our family. Does it in yours? Could it?
Good thing is, you’ll have plenty of time to think this through over the 7 hours this Leg of Lamb will spend in the oven! Another good reason to give it a try 😉 There’s even a step-by-step video guide! So slow down, stick the lamb in the oven, and dance in the kitchen while making some deviled eggs and flageolets !
And if you’re looking for more ideas on what to serve for your Easter or spring lunch, check out two festive menus here.