In Estonia, Mardi Gras is restricted to the somewhat banal and ubiquitous vastlakukkel, the whipped cream bun with a funny hat. One of the Balti Sepik cafes in Tallinn had a whole section of the cafe cordoned off, reserved for the largescale distribution of vastlakukkel orders. That's dedication.
It's fine if it's real whipped cream (see my screed on vegetable fats) and if it's fat that you're after. But being more vegetarian than not, I need something more meaty and festive on this of all days. A stew. We had osso buco last night, which together with the orange and lemony gremolata that it's traditionally served with, makes the house smell like Christmas all over again.
Flavour-wise it is a kind of pot roast -- except of course it's supposed to be made from veal shanks. There aren't exactly any local butcher's shops to pop into...and veal is sort of an ethical pickle for me anyway, to mix culinary expressions.
But Stockmann was offering something fresh for 40 kroons a kilo under the name of osso buco -- and it was a cattle product, if much closer to ox than calf, and I decided that we would break out the marrow spoons. It's a threefold experience -- the meat, the sauce which is rich and gelatinous on account of the bones, and then the marrow.
I don't really know if this is appetizing to most people or not.
My wife self-admittedly tends to have a better relationship with organ meats than she does with bones and their contents. Well-marbled beef (läbikasvanud veiseliha) is not officially recognized as a concept in this country, and beef cuts with (un)healthy strips of fat or the bone in also seem to be out. An Australian was just lamenting the lack of a good steak in this country in an email...another country that knows from meat.*
Apologies to the vegetarian members of my family who may be reading this. Just consider that I was originally going to lead with the story of the epidemic at a slaughterhouse in Minnesota, which would have grossed everyone out.
* What's good in Estonia: smoked sausages, an amazing array of extremely non-kosher snacks like ham rolls stffed with cheese and garlic, all manner of pork, the new lean beef cattle, lamb from southern Estonia...