For Easter, the New Yorker published an article by Jason Wilson titled “Eating the Easter Bunny.” The caption of the photo in the header functions as a sub-title: “A coveted ingredient in many global cuisines, rabbit meat has always been a hard sell among American diners.”
Here are the first several paragraphs of the article:
“On a recent evening, I was in the meat department at a Whole Foods in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, pondering what to cook for Easter brunch. Last year, I bought two rabbits from a nearby branch and served a peppery and aromatic main course of roasted rabbit with fennel. At the Sunday meal, though my niece and nephew did exclaim, with nervous laughter, “You cooked the Easter bunny!” my family members were not particularly scandalized by the dish. No one accused me of being a ‘bunny boiler’ like, say, Glenn Close, in Fatal Attraction. There was general agreement that the meat tasted a lot like chicken.
“Thinking I might do a bunny encore this year, I searched Whole Foods’ refrigerated and frozen cases for rabbit meat. Finding none, I asked the young woman behind the butcher counter where it was. ‘We stopped selling rabbit because of all the protesters,’ she replied. I’d never seen a protester at any of the Whole Foods where I shop in the Philly area. ‘Protesters at this store?’ I asked. ‘Yeah,’ the woman said. ‘They used to come with bullhorns and pictures of rabbits and everything. I think people maybe stopped buying the rabbit because of the protesters.’ I looked around at shelves stocked with the meat of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, quail, lamb, bison, deer, and other animals. ‘Why did they single out rabbits?’ I asked. ‘I guess because they’re cuter than cows?’ she said.”
The photo at the head of the article illustrates why some people might feel some outrage at the thought of eating rabbits:
Jason Wilson’s complete article is available at: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/eating-the-easter-bunny?mbid.
This article got me thinking. I don’t know that I have ever actually eaten rabbit, but I know that I had the opportunity to eat it when I was very young.
For the last three decades of his working life, my father was employed at a plant that made artillery shells. He worked in an area surrounded by furnaces set at different temperatures and moved the forged shell casings at intervals from one furnace to another to insure that the steel was properly hardened. During the Vietnam Way, the plant operated around the clock and employed about 1800 men, most of them veterans of World War II and the Korean War. My father had been a Marine and had landed with the first wave on Iwo Jima. Although he eventually kept two sets of uniform shirts—one with a corporal’s stripes and another with a private’s stripe—because he was busted back in rank so regularly, in civilian life he apparently developed some steadier leadership qualities. For almost a decade, he was the chief steward of the union representing the workers at the munitions plant.
I cannot remember if I was still too young for school or if it was simply not a school day, but late one afternoon, there was a knock on our front door. I went to the door but waited for my mother to come and open the door. A rough-looking guy in a red plaid jacket was standing there, holding two large brown paper bags, one in the crook of each arm. It turned out that he was supposed to work the third shift but had shown up for work completely inebriated. He might have been fired, but my father had gone to the plant at 3:00 in the morning and had interceded on his behalf. He was at our front door to demonstrate how much he appreciated that my father had saved his job.
The bags were covered with wet spots. One held several grouse, and the other several rabbits. He had apparently gone out that very morning with his shotgun. He explained to my mother that he had gutted all of the birds and rabbits and had drained the blood from them, but he had not had time to skin the rabbits or to remove the birds’ feathers. He seemed confident, however, that my father would know how to “clean” them. My mother visibly recoiled when he attempted to pass her the bags. She asked him if he would take them down to the basement and place them in the deep sink near the furnace.
When my father got home from work, it was very clear that he was almost as baffled by the man’s gesture as my mother was. It was also clear that he had no intention of skinning the rabbits or cleaning the feathers from the birds. I had to wait until my uncle came home from work. He was an avid outdoorsman, who hunted and fished. I don’t remember how he cleaned the birds, but I do have a vivid memory of him pealing the fur in a single piece off the very pink flesh of each of the rabbits. I do not know if the image stuck with me because it disturbed me or simply because it was unlike anything I had ever seen before or since.
In any case, when I saw Jason Wilson’s article, it reminded me not only of my own childhood experience but also of another article that I had recently saved. It is a feature article published in the British newspaper The Mail. Written by Suchandrika Chakrabarti and Gemma Aldridge, the article is titled “Meet the World’s Biggest Rabbit Who Thinks he’s a Dog.” The article is accompanied by the following photos, and I will leave it to you to decide whether the size of these rabbits would make them more or less objectionable as entrees:
If you should be teaching Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” or anything about our relationship to the food that we eat, this post might make an interesting companion piece.