by Aimee Levitt
RFT staff writer Aimee Levitt and her cat, Bess, continue their culinary adventure.
Last Saturday afternoon found me wandering through the Soulard Market feeling glum. It had been nearly two months since I started cooking for Bess and she had yet to eat anything I had served her. Jeff's salmon burgers, yes. Something prepared by my own two hands, no.
Jeff, predictably, was smug.
"Someday," he said, "you, too, will know the joy of watching your cat eat the food you made for her."
His voice echoed in my head and made me especially pissy as I stopped at a booth to buy some bacon. But then, as the woman behind the counter began to weigh out my half-pound, my eye fell upon a sign that read, "Marrow Bone, $1/lb."
Marrow bones and childhood trauma, after the jump...
This gave me pause. Wasn't roasted marrow bone the first meal Jeffrey Steingarten, the inspiration for this project, had prepared for his golden retriever Sky King? And hadn't Sky King devoured it happily and with great enthusiasm, at least as reported in Steingarten's book It Must've Been Something I Ate?
"I'll take a couple of pounds of the marrow bone, too," I said.
I didn't bother to examine the marrow bone until I had gotten it safely home. It must have been a joint of some kind, but the organ it most resembled was the human heart. Only bony. And big. How the hell was Bess supposed to get that into her delicate mouth?
It turns out Steingarten had had Sky King's marrow bone cut into two-inch segments. I do not own any butchering tools. Or even a saw. Whatever. Bess and I are creative individuals. We would improvise! (Of course it may have been improvisation that got us into trouble before, but again, whatever.)
Per Steingarten's instructions, I rubbed the ends of the frozen marrow bone with Kosher salt and then nuked it in the microwave, on high, for ten minutes. Then I roasted it for another twenty in an oven set to 400 degrees. The apartment started to smell really good. Even Bess, who usually only responds to the aroma of raw fish, lifted her head and sniffed the air. I had high hopes.
The marrow bone, when it emerged from the oven, was a thing of beauty, fragrant and sizzling and glistening with fat. What carnivore could resist it? We waited a few minutes for it to cool "to the temperature of a freshly-killed rabbit," as Steingarten puts it. (This temperature was approximate. I've only seen a freshly killed rabbit once, an unfortunate incident many years ago involving our family dog Trixie and a litter of baby rabbits who had taken up residence in the backyard and, frankly, the whole thing was way too traumatizing for anybody to even consider taking the bunnies' temperature, even if we knew that information would be useful one day.)
But still, that marrow bone was big! I took a stab at it with a steak knife. No joy. (Not that I tried all that hard.) But I could see a tiny bit of reddish-brown marrow. I scooped it out with my knife and deposited it in a bowl. Then I shaved off some of the fatty bits that clung to the bone and dumped those in the bowl, too. They tasted good, like the stuff you nibble off a lamb chop once you've devoured all the meat.
I think Bess agreed. She buried her nose in that bowl right away and it sounded like she was chewing. I moved closer. She was chewing! I felt victorious for a few fleeting moments, until I saw her spit a hunk of fat back out again. I took the bowl away to cut the fat into smaller, Bess-sized pieces, but by the time I put it back on the floor, she had already lost interest.
Throughout the next day or so, I would see Bess with her nose in the bowl, apparently masticating vigorously, but every time I approached with the camera to get some proof that she was actually eating something I cooked for her, she lifted her head to look at me and spoiled the whole thing.
But the curious thing was, there seemed to be the same number of fat pieces in the bowl, though not the marrow. Did Bess just enjoy chewing on the fat for the taste? Did she really like the marrow? She seemed happy. The whole thing is a puzzle that definitely calls for further investigation, with marrow bone cut into manageable pieces, as directed. We shall be mavericks no more.
Home Cooking: 2 (?), Purina: 5, Starbucks: 0