This is the second installment of Sunday Dinners, a biweekly column from our own Tom Hirschfeld featuring his gorgeous photography, stunning Indiana farm, and mouthwatering family meals.

This week: Tom becomes a part-time vegetarian to better understand his love of meat.

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- Tom

I can spend hours languidly walking through art museums looking at paintings — I like it when a feeling of soulful warmth comes over me as I look at someone else's creation. As a little boy, I distinctly remember watching a PBS documentary on Leonardo da Vinci. It was one of the most influential events of my early life, and afterward I took art lessons, started building contraptions, and found education (well, at least the parts I was interested in) much more fulfilling.

I especially love Dutch and Flemish still life paintings. How can I resist a piece of perfectly ripe fruit juxtaposed with a bleeding rabbit, a pair of speared partridges hung from a wall, or an immaculately set table with beautifully patterned bone china, hammered silver flatware, and delicate crystal goblets etched with grapes? Then there are the trippy portrayals of fruits and vegetables that seem somehow modernist to me, like the Juan Sánchez Cotán painting Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber or Rembrandt's Slaughtered Ox. Together, these opulent artworks add up to my vision of what I want our Sunday dinners to be.

I am never shocked when people call Dutch food boring, because I know they are wrong. I suppose just like any other regional cuisine there are good things and bad things. Maybe it is because Dutch food has more of an influence on East Coast cuisine then we might think. In other words, instead of "boring" what we actually mean is "mundane." After all, the Dutch were some of the first settlers of the tri-state area — think of New Amsterdam and Spuyten Duyvil, or for that matter anything with a "kill" on the end of it, which means "body of water" in Dutch. Peekskill, Beaverkill, and Fishkill are all remnants that the Dutch left on the landscape of the New World.

I find that classic Dutch dishes make marvelous Sunday dinners, and many are just quirky enough to be pleasantly different from our traditional American mainstays. I'm thinking of marrowfat peas (which is just a fancy name for whole dried peas, starchy instead of sweet) and dishes that are connected to Dutch sea traditions like Captain's dinner (beans with bacon and syrup), eel, and herring. And, hey, it is always hard to pass up a good ham and gouda croquette. (If you care to be authentic, the G in gouda is pronounced like you are spitting out an H, as in "hairball," to make something like "howda.")


Full disclosure: I have been eating more vegetarian meals then ever before. I know, this isn't what you expect to hear when you see a leg of lamb being boned out and rolled. The real reason is that my wife feels better eating this way and has gone back to it (yes, before we were together she was a vegetarian). I am wholeheartedly for it — in all honesty, I feel better too. Usually I'm the unhealthy, devil-may-care kind of guy who likes his excesses (oh waiter, cocktail please), so for me any reduction in consumption is good. It helps that I truly enjoy the challenge of making well-balanced vegetarian meals.

What am I saying? I guess you could say I am going Dutch, so to speak. I am not about to give up my animal protein for all eternity, but when I do decide to partake, partake I will. What this allows me to do is spend a little more cash on my meaty tasty bits. I can search out the good stuff and not feel like I'm spending too much: either I raise it, a neighbor raises it, or I turn to my two favorite local processors. Plus, I really do find that I enjoy a good bird, goat, cow, or pig a lot more if I'm not eating from the flock or herd everyday. I take my time in the kitchen cooking with care and attention. More than anything else, when I'm at the table I eat with relish, savoring each wonderful bite.

Sunday Leg of Lamb

Serves 6 to 8

For the lamb:
4 to 4 1/2 pound bone-in leg of lamb
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 head garlic, roasted
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stock:
bone from leg of lamb
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 celery stalk, trimmed and cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
6 cups water
3 parsley sprigs
salt and freshly ground black pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • kristinnicholas
  • Blissful Baker
    Blissful Baker
  • thirschfeld
  • Kelly Clark
    Kelly Clark
  • Greenstuff
Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


kristinnicholas February 19, 2012
Do you know the work of James Ensor? In his early years he painted lots of still lives with food and if I'm not mistaken, meat. Here is an image:,-1925.html&docid=ohX7KuA9XRLlEM&imgurl=

Went to a show in Belgium once and was blown away by the colors and textures. Still remember vividly all the crazy color.

I live on a sheep farm in western Massachusetts where my husband and I raise 250 ewe flock. I enjoy your columns from your farm on Food 52. Look forward to your cookbook.
Blissful B. February 16, 2012
Congratulations on your IACP nomination (for your blog). It's well deserved!
thirschfeld February 15, 2012
Thanks so much Adam E.
Kelly C. February 14, 2012
Delightful! Thank you for sharing. I too anxiously await your cookbook.
thirschfeld February 15, 2012
thanks Kelly!
Greenstuff February 14, 2012
Really great ramble. I feel like I just took a little walk with you. I'd noticed and appreciated your interest in Dutch food before, and this piece was just luscious.
thirschfeld February 15, 2012
Thanks Greenstuff. I am always up for a walk.
savory P. February 14, 2012
Dear Tom,

As your other fans no doubt are, I too am eagerly awaiting your cookbook with stories and recipes. After most of my life in NYC and a readjustment to Berlin, your cooking and stories make me want to visit Indiana -- I think the only other people who might make me feel that way are Calvin Trillin and the Sterns.

Thank you for your contributions that meld food and people into a new American food culture.


thirschfeld February 15, 2012
thank you so much savory pie.
SKK February 14, 2012
Totally resonate with being a flexitarian! I eat meat perhaps once or twice a week, and when I do it is always the best and much appreciated. As for art, one of my favorite places in the world is Rijksmuseum Museum in Amsterdam. I have spent hours and hours there when fortunate enought to find myself in Amsterdam. Another great article, Tom!
thirschfeld February 15, 2012
I have spent many hours in the Rijks. It might be one of my favorite places in the world. I will never forget taking Vivian there when she was three. I didn't know if she would want to stay for long. She was fascinated and we were there for three hours.
sianbum February 14, 2012
The lamb looks lovely, but I'm dying for the recipe for the side dish!
TXExpatInBKK February 14, 2012
I second the motion!
thirschfeld February 15, 2012
I have made both to go with this lamb and they are both great.
Adam E. February 14, 2012
Thank you for this beautiful piece! I am writing my dissertation on Flemish painting, and you really captured so much of what I love about this culture, its art, and its food.