Sunday, August 10, 2014

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Rabbit

     This is the first blog post I’ve done about eating a member of a species that I had as a pet.  Well, technically I also have eaten catfish, and had one of these in my aquarium for a time, but that’s not the same thing.  Fish aren’t exactly cuddly, or petted, and don’t have the same personalities as a mammal, or even some reptiles and amphibians.
     Because of my own, and other family members’ dander allergies, we couldn’t really have typical mammals when I was growing up.  Meaning we never had any dogs or cats.  So it was goldfish, guppies, gourmis, hermit crabs, a newt, a salamander, a guinea pig, several mice, and then a rabbit.  Since Fifi the rabbit lived in a hutch outside, our allergies weren’t bothered.  I recall Fifi fondly.  She was quite friendly, liked to be petted, and made weird, pig-like grunting noises.  Also it was kind of funny to watch her be walked around the backyard on her leash.  But, obviously, this didn’t stop me from eating a couple of her comrades later.  (And if you’re curious, I think I would try eating other “pet” animals, even cat, guinea pig, or dog, etc., if given the opportunity in a grocery or a restaurant.)
     Rabbits as food aren’t very common in the U.S. these days, except for rural hunters and in certain ethnic restaurants.  But throughout history, and into the present day, they’re common, especially in the U.K., Morocco, China, and several Asian Pacific countries.  It’s easy to see why, since they’re so plentiful, and relatively easy to hunt or catch.
     (DISGUSTING SUBJECT MATTER—SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF EASILY REVOLTED)  While researching Peter Cottontail and his kin for this post, I learned something odd and disturbing about them.  Specifically about their digestion.  Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings.  One is digested fibrous material, and is hard.  The second is black colored and soft, and is called a cecotrope.  Here’s the gross part.  Due to a quirk in their digestion, rabbits get extra vitamins, minerals, and protein by eating their cecotropes as a regular activity.  I’ve always thought that ruminants, animals like cows, that essentially chew on and reswallow their own vomit (the “cud”) were disgusting, but rabbits have them beat.  So I guess that explains why you see so few rabbit reaction videos to “2 Girls, 1 Cup”—they don’t see what the big deal is.
     Rabbits have found their way into several expressions, too.  In boxing, a “rabbit punch” is an illegal blow to the back of the opponent’s head.  This comes from the usual way of dispatching a rabbit that’s been caught in a snare.  And this is outdated now, but in the first half of the 20th century or so “The rabbit died,” was a euphemism for indicating that a woman was pregnant.  (Which incidentally was a misleading expression.  Originally this test involved injecting a prospective woman’s urine into a female rabbit.  If the woman was pregnant, hormones in her urine would cause detectable changes in the rabbit’s ovaries.  However, since checking the ovaries required killing and autopsying the rabbit, the rabbit died whether the human lady was pregnant or not.  Later revisions allowed lab tests to determine pregnancy or not without killing the rabbit, and later still, of course, tests were developed that were more accurate and didn’t need an animal test subject at all.)
     And then there’s “rabbit starvation.”  Rabbit meat is almost completely lean, with almost no fat.  Because of this, in situations where rabbit was folks’ only source of food (most notably, during Arctic explorations), this caused a bizarre and nasty condition.  Sufferers of this have diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, and are left in a state of constant hunger, even when their stomachs are packed with rabbit meat.  So if you’re lost in the wilderness, or if there’s a zombie apocalypse or something, make sure you augment your diet with other sources of fat and carbs if at all possible.
     For one final rabbit related anecdote, there was actually a nature-run-amok horror/sci fi thriller involving rabbits as the “monster.”  This movie was called “Night of the Lepus” and came out in 1972.  The plot involves a plan to cut down on a rabbit population explosion by using a serum designed to cause birth defects.  Alas, some test subjects get free and breed.  The serum unexpectedly causes the resulting rabbits to grow larger, and become carnivorous.  Incredibly, this is all played out straight—not at all the campy, tongue in cheek movie you would expect.  (And unlike the humorous tone of the source novel, Russell Braddon’s “The Year of the Angry Rabbit.”)  Reportedly the special effects were cheesy even by low budget sci fi/horror standards, as they used unconvincing miniatures, smeared ketchup on rabbit’s faces to simulate blood, and even used human actors in bunny suits!  Famous actors Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, Stuart Whitman, and Dr. “Bones” McCoy himself, DeForest Kelly star.  (Allegedly Leigh basically agreed to do it largely because the movie was shot near her home.)  Obviously this sounds like a perfect “so bad it’s good” and “laugh at it, not with it” type of film, and I plan to try to track it down.
     It’s been some years, but I tried rabbit as a main entrée in a Greek restaurant (I think).  Some people say it “tastes like chicken” as the cliché goes, but I didn’t think so.  I found it completely underwhelming.  Not flavorful, and forgettable.  A couple of years ago, I had some combined with some other meats (I recall maybe wild boar, and perhaps lamb?) in sausage form from the cool Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.  This was good, but I don’t know how much of this was due to the rabbit’s credit, and how much to the other animals’ meats.  I would (rather grudgingly) try it again if I get the chance, but I don’t have high hopes at all.
     To add one last tidbit, evidently one term for a young rabbit is a “kitten.”  Which, when you think about it, is a ridiculously stupid and confusing name.

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