Why Crime Writers Love Lamb
Mention “lamb” to any crime writer of a certain age and you will likely hear about one of the most memorable culinary mystery plotlines in popular culture: “Lamb to the Slaughter,” an episode of the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series, based on a short story by Roald Dahl.
The murderess of this nascent foodie mystery is Mary Maloney, a (seemingly) docile housewife completely in love with her police officer husband. As the story opens, he comes home from work with a grim disposition and very bad news: He’s leaving her.
Mary is devastated. In a zombie-like homemaker haze, she continues about her business, going to the deep freezer to fetch a frozen leg of lamb for dinner. Mary then carries the club-shaped leg to the kitchen, walks up behind her husband, and introduces the back of his head to nine pounds of uncooked meat. By the time the detectives show, Mary has hidden the murder weapon (in her pre-heated oven). What happens next? View the episode (below) and you’ll see. The ending is clever, twisted, hilarious, and all-too human.
The ending also left me hungry for a really good lamb chop. The only question: cook it myself like Mary or eat out? As it happens, a few years ago, while researching elements in one of my own culinary mysteries, French Pressed—in which a womanizing chef de cuisine gets it in the neck—I attended a panel discussion at New York’s 92nd Street Y that included such esteemed members as Chef Jacques Pépin and food writer Gael Greene.
One of the evening’s topics was “the forty dollar lamb chop,” a half-joking example of the high cost of operating a restaurant in Manhattan. How high? According to members of the panel, getting a 200-seat restaurant off the ground in midtown takes roughly $6 million. Such expenses are, of course, passed on to the customer, hence the $40 chop.
My husband and I write for a living, which is to say: There’s no way in hell we can afford said chop on a regular basis, unless we (like the merry murderess Mary Maloney), cook it ourselves. Consequently, I am delighted to share with you my recipe for an amazing $3.00 lamb chop, just as good as a Manhattan chop but with a savings of $37.00. Unfortunately, you have to mix your own martini.
To download a free, illustrated PDF of my recipe, click here. Like I said, crime writers love lamb (especially culinary crime writers). If not to eat, then to use for—well, view the episode below, and you’ll get the idea…
This Hitchcock television series, which aired in the late 1950’s, pre-dates me, but, I’m a longtime fan of Hitch—how can you not love a guy who sees the lighter side of murder? “Lamb to the Slaughter” was based on a short story by the acclaimed author of children’s books Roald Dahl. To read Dahl’s complete short story, rejected by The New Yorker before being published by Harper’s Magazine, click here.
Cleo Coyle, who never murdered anyone (with a leg of lamb), is the pen name for an author who collaborates with her husband to write the Coffeehouse Mysteries and the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, both national bestselling series for Penguin USA. To download more of Cleo’s free recipes, learn about her books, or sign up for her weekly free coffee drawings, visit her at www.CoffeehouseMystery.com