Eating meat off the bone

Hello! A little something I wrote for Gourmet Traveller about eating meat off the bone.

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When I first met my partner, I hid it, of course. It was only when he was out watering the orchids or flossing his teeth that I could do it – quickly, furtively.

Despite that, though, fairly early on I was outed. After volunteering to make pea and ham soup, I was caught in flagrante delicto with the ham hock. Oh the shock. The shame. The gristle.

So let me state my truth: I am an avid eater of meat off the bone. And when I say avid, I mean I go at it like Henry VIII cross-bred with a Neanderthal. It’s not just the meat: it’s the cartilage, the tendon, the bone, the marrow… there is nothing I won’t gruntily tackle. Cutlery, you venture? Just not effective in those hard-to-reach crevices, and inevitably I’m left despairing at all the wasted meat that I know could be hoovered up in one fell suck.

Eating meat off the bone is ugly; it can’t be prettied up or Photoshopped. There’s nothing worse than being presented with a quail leg at a cocktail party and – whilst holding a drink, napkin and clutch bag – doing it justice whilst discussing #MeToo. (Looking angry at the patriarchy is hard when you have a femur lodged between your front teeth). But in the privacy of your own home and in the safety of your least elasticised tracksuit pants, it is – ask any hyena – a deeply satisfying experience.

Slippery, succulent, flavoursome: the best meat comes from the bone. I come from a long line of bone suckers (Mother more flatteringly describes us as ‘hands on’). The day my partner met the family, my brother was squatting next to the bin chewing on the remains of a lamb leg, his lips shiny with lamby grease.

Then there’s the way Dad ‘carves’ a chicken. While others slice slowly and methodically, Dad dons pink washing up gloves (for heat protection) and starts ripping bits off. Little blobs of chicken juice, gelatine and fat fly in all directions as we hover around like desperate seagulls. Naturally, some meat goes into his trap (third-degree burns guaranteed), then he surveys the pile of glistening chicken, and – like a bouquet-tossing bride – launches a mini drumstick at a lucky bystander.

Many people feel that there’s little return on investment in eating meat off the bone or that carcass-chewing is primitive. My partner’s in the latter camp, though he says it’s actually the noise that drives him to the edge. It’s about nurture not nature isn’t it? Bone foods were an alien concept to him growing up: his dear Mother lovingly tweezered the bones out of his tinned fish until he was well into his thirties.

I can see the logic in being able to slice through your chicken breast with sharpened metal, keep your hands clean and enjoy a solid meat-to-effort ratio. Lust does not blind me to the risk that bone foods present. On several occasions, calcified fragments have wedged themselves into my oesophagus and required some hasty water boarding (the trick is to eat a rolled-up piece of bread with peanut butter, which isn’t easy to prepare when you’ve got sudden-onset brain hypoxia). But I can only conclude that there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.

My partner is very accepting of my primal ways, and our differences work well. When we roast a chicken, I have a leg, he has a breast and the next night is a happy repeat. The third night, I enjoy two wings and other carcass bits while my partner has a cheddar sandwich (no crusts) in a different room with his headphones on. I no longer need excuse myself to another room to gnaw on a bone; it is he who is the refugee. I’m out – not of the closet, but of the butler’s pantry and I stand by my right to eat a chicken leg proud. And loud

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