Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Bitumen Lamb (or slightly more elegantly - Le Gigot Bitume) is a French building site tradition, a kind of cousin to the topping out ceremony, where a tree is often hoisted up onto the highest point of a newly completed structure.
In France there is none of this messing around, it is straight to the important business of lunch. I arrived on site (a secondary school refurb/extension in the western suburbs of Paris) just as the champagne aperitif was being served. We were shortly taken outside, to see our lunch being prepared. The charcoaly smell of fresh bitumen was overpowering. I have always quite liked the smell of roadworks, but never really in a way that gets my appetite going. Anyway, lunch was apparently in the bottom of the boiling and steaming bitumen mixer. To much cheering our chefs lifted a wire basket out, placed it on the ground and dowsed the five or six black parcels in it with cold water. Then it gets a bit like pass the parcel. The black bitumen rock is tapped on the ground like a boiled egg to break it open. Underneath are layers of brown paper, and once these are peeled back, layers of silver foil, and finally, a delicious joint of lamb, roasted with tomatoes and onion. Slightly disappointingly, I couldn't detect any background notes of bitumen in the meat.