Goat and Groups

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Goat is a meat you rarely see on a menu in America. I vaguely recall eating a goat stew in Jamaica when I was 11, but it was tough and  unremarkable. My impression of goat and so much more were altered last night when I tried it at a dinner party with people I’d never met. Here’s the story:

This all started in November, when acquaintances of my mother-in-law asked her if she “knew anyone who would eat goat”. We were promptly added to the list of people who will eat goat (I suppose we will eat anything once). The other guests were all close friends of the goat dinner husband and wife hosts, Jimmy and Hardy.

Though we only interacted for a few hours, I quickly decided Jimmy and Hardy are my type of people. They’re the type who, in their retirement, probably act younger than they did when they were very young. They’re clearly loved by their table full of friends, who seem equally spry and adventurous.

Jimmy had the idea of barbecuing a goat sometime last year, so he ordered one from a farm in Rutherdforton, got it butchered in Forest City, and had it cooked at a wood fired grill restaurant one of his friends owns in Flat Rock. He had his collection of people who would eat goat out to the restaurant, and generously invited them to order sides and drinks to accompany the roasted goat.

I’ve never felt more welcome at a dinner party in my life. There I was, at least 40 years younger than most of the guests, but I was promptly given a beer and invited right into their conversations, asked about my family, my work, where I grew up, etc. I sat back looking at this table full of strangers, and upon listening to stories about how they lived and currently live their lives – the ladies playing games of mahjong together, the couples regularly meeting for dinner parties- I was actually filled with excitement about my distant future.

As for the goat, it was cooked Texas BBQ style (Texas being where Jimmy and Hardy lived before retirement) and served with roasted tomatoes and garlic, and the most delicious sauce. I paired mine with a 13 French Broad Rebels ESB, onion strings, cornbread and collards.

Not only did this meal make me think twice about goat, it inspired reflection on friendship and food….

Sometimes I kick myself for organizing so many group meals. It can become excessive, and I’m sure exhausting for people who don’t share the same interest (dare I say obsession?) in community dining. But last night’s experience illuminated the deeper reason for why I’m a prolific inviter. For a brief period in my lifetime, I was fortunate to connect with a group of people that had a synergy and found genuine delight in one another’s company. The enjoyment I found in meeting with them to eat simple meals and savor drawn out conversation and laughter was such a powerful force in my life. At times, just knowing one of those meals was on the horizon helped me through rough days and weeks.  There is, however, a season for everything, and the close-knit group had to separate for new, good things.

That time left me profoundly aware of the blessing that comes in discovering true friendship, which in my experience, is often cultivated over a cup of coffee or plate of food. Pizza, spaghetti, tacos….goat. The menu matters not, for it’s merely an excuse to find good company.

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