There’s no shame in taking a doggie bag, and there’s no shame in admitting it’s for yourself, not a dog. And there’s no shame in asking for free food on Instagram. I mean, uh, at least there’s no shame for me.
If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or a squeamish meat eater, you should probably stop reading now.
If you’re a squeamish meat eater, I’d like you to spend a few minutes meditating on your ethics. If you aren’t willing to get up close and personal with the meat you eat–if you don’t like to think about where it came from or what it looked like in its original form–I don’t think you should eat meat. But we can still be friends.
The other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed–kids, food, and vacations only, please–and I saw a post from Lula Drake, the new wine bar downtown. (Is it still new? Probably not, but it takes me about ten years to decide something isn’t new anymore.) Have you been yet? They have this delightful Iberico ham on the menu, which they slice to order, and I do love a thinly sliced pork product with my wine. Anyhow, on Instagram they were boiling peanuts with the bone, which seemed like a fine idea to me, so I casually mentioned that I’d be more than happy to take one of those bones off their hands, should they have a spare. The Iberico ham is a popular dish, so they had plenty.
I offered to pay for it because, while I may have no shame, I do have manners. They graciously said I could have it for free as long as I did something nice on down the road for someone else. With an enormous ham bone on hand, that would be easy enough.
I went in one night for a glass of wine (Ha, ha. Two glasses of wine, maybe three.) I mentioned my request and was presented with a frozen bone, about two feet long, entirely wrapped in plastic wrap and unfortunately shaped like a rifle. Which was all just fine until my Uber arrived and I had to explain myself. I promised that my severed hog leg wasn’t dangerous, and my driver seemed okay with it. As per usual, it turned out that he knew my entire family because a close relative of his worked for my dad. Welcome to Columbia: where you always know your Uber driver and you might be able to get a free pig leg.
Because the ham was cured, I left it to thaw on the counter for a couple of days, which made the dog kind of antsy because he could smell ham and had no way to access it. In the end, I borrowed a saw and had one of my sons saw the leg in three pieces because even my biggest pot was too small for the whole thing or even half.
Then I made bone stock. Even a third of a leg made an awful lot of stock so the next night when I went to a friend’s for snacks on the porch, I brought her some stock. (You’d be surprised what friends appreciate.) And the night after that? I gave my brother some stock when he came for dinner. (I made a casserole, of course, tuna with spicy jack cheese and cream of mushroom soup made from my ham stock.) Another friend stopped by and I gave her a couple of containers because I had so much ham stock. When you’re little, you get a bag of goodies at the end of a party. At my house, you get ham stock.
“Paying it forward” has become a bit of a cliche. (And I never even saw the movie. Maybe I should do that.) Cliche or not, it’s a nice concept. Whether you’re passing along a little bone stock, offering your neighbor a basil plant after you overbought, or putting the shirt your somewhat misguided great aunt gave you for your birthday into the Goodwill bag, giving up what you can’t use – when it’s still usable, even wanted – is the right thing to do. Besides, it means less clutter for you! (Wait. Does this mean my friends did me a favor by taking the stock? So now I have to something else nice? Hmph. How many nice things can one person do in a month, anyway?)