Saturday, January 8, 2011

Welcome 2011, Year of the Rabbit

Ok, so I know it’s not actually Chinese New Year yet, but for the sake of my blog, can we just pretend? Because 2011 marks the year of the rabbit. Sweet, cuddly, fluffy bunnies. My sister owns one, actually. Its name is Toffee (though it has gone by other names including Robot, Bunnix, and Nixon -- my personal fave.) I volunteer at an animal shelter here in Boston, and I sometimes visit with the bunnies. I LIKE rabbits. They’re cute. They remind me of Easter and candy and cartoons.

** NOTE: Bunny lovers, be warned, this is where you should stop reading this blog post**

So why, you ask, did I decide to cook rabbit stew?

I recently purchased a few Polish cookbooks (part to get in touch with my Polish heritage, and part as research for a novel I’m working on.) And what did I find inside each one of them? A recipe for rabbit. And in some cases, MANY recipes. What I gleaned from this: at one time eating rabbit was cool. And based on these cookbooks, I get the impression that Poland was overrun by rabbits – sort of like my neighborhood here in Boston is overrun by rats (ew). But unlike rats, rabbits made for good eating.

So why are Americans (many of who are descendents of Europe) so horrified by the idea of eating rabbit? I blame Disney. And Warner Brothers. I had the same feeling of shock and horror the first time I ate venison. BAMBI!? NO! This time while I was at the butcher shop and looked at the rabbit meat in the freezer I had images of Thumper and Bugs Bunny flash through my head.

Bunnies are for snuggling and hopping around your apartment and nibbling on power cords and scaring your cat. Not for EATING! Right?

But people DO eat them. Many people.

As I stood at the freezer at the butcher I got to thinking: What makes some animals good eats and others taboo? I’ve decided it is The Snuggly Factor. We have no problem eating chickens (man, are they ugly) or cows or pigs or turkeys (also quite ugly) or fish (certainly no snuggling there.) But cats and dogs, no way, they are so CUTE! And rabbits, CUTE! I recently learned that we are genetically programmed to think baby animals are cute and they trigger nurturing instincts in us. Is that why we have a hard time eating cute animals? Because it goes against our nurturing instincts? I’m no scientist, but I might be on to something.

In any case, I threw caution to the wind (and instincts) and bought rabbit. I cooked it up in a traditional German style -- slow cooking it as a stew. Verdict: Tastes like chicken.

Dear Readers, Do you eat rabbit, or any other “non-traditional” animals? Tell me about it, I’d like to hear. PS: For you meat fanatics, I just bought my boyfriend a whopping of strange meats for Christmas (elk, antelope, kangaroo, alligator) so stay tuned while I serve up some of that in the coming weeks! I’m also going to work on posting more regularly. Happy 2011!

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