A recipe, clipped from a magazine and yellowed with age, fell out of an overstuffed folder and into my memory, taking me back to the time when I was eighteen, married, and did not cook.
When I found the recipe for ‘Ragout of Rabbit’ I thought I had found the perfect recipe which would transport me into the realm of gourmet cook. I would also impress our very sophisticated cousin by inviting him to have dinner with us in our tiny third floor apartment. My first mistake came with pronouncing Ragout as it is spelled, but coming from a family of cooks who never used garlic, and wouldn’t think of using wine, what could you expect? The recipe called for both, and much more, including herbs I had never heard of.
After a long and complicated preparation, the recipe ended with the question “And did you notice that this recipe bears a startling resemblance to that one of Apicius?” I had never heard of the old Roman Apicius and his cookbook, and had no idea where to find it. I have since wondered if it took Apicius as long to prepare it as it did me.
We invited our cousin, and I struggled through the recipe, but he did not arrive on our doorstep. We ate the entire rabbit, which was rich with unfamiliar flavors, threw away the bones and I never made the rabbit recipe again.
Many years later, my mother raised some rabbits, along with geese and chickens, on their small property in Oregon. The geese became a problem as they considered that side of the ditch their own and attacked all intruders. This large ditch ran for miles from Medford, through their property and on into Grants Pass. It kept a moderate flow which made floating on inner tubes great fun. You could float along all the way into the town of Grants Pass if you had someone to pick you up and bring you home. My dad’s big collie dog went out of his mind barking if my mother tried to cool off by swimming and threatened to jump in when the children got in. It was strange how he knew all this water could be dangerous.
I have always liked the idea of rabbits, ever since Peter Rabbit captured my imagination. I had an unpleasant picture of Mrs. McGregor, and thought rabbits were much nicer than cabbages. When I was eight or nine, I received a sweet bunny rabbit at Easter, which promptly bit my finger. The crooked nail has been a constant reminder of how unpredictable the small creatures can be.
I have often wondered how rabbits came to be associated with the celebration of Easter, and who was the first to imagine that they could lay colored eggs. Who had the idea that a rabbit’s foot was lucky? It certainly wasn’t lucky for the rabbit.