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Rabbit. A Less Used White Meat

People in the US seem squeamish about the thought of eating rabbit. Most of the rest of the world sees nothing at all strange about rabbit as a regular food. Rabbit is less fatty than turkey or chicken and makes a fantastic stew or fricassee.

While living in Guatemala in the 1970s I had the opportunity to meet a couple from Europe. The wife was from southern Switzerland and the husband from northern Italy. We were invited to dinner at their house one evening and were served a lovely, rich rabbit stew over spaghetti noodles, with a bottle of Chianti wine. Having lived only in the US for my first 20 years of life, I had not been exposed to rabbit as food. I was becoming accustomed in Guatemala to eating all sorts of wonderful foods I had never seen or heard of previously. I had no qualms about trying rabbit.

Though that was over 40 years ago, that rabbit stew lives vividly in my memory as one of the best dishes I have eaten. I tried to find a recipe like it, but have had no success. I tried one time to make a rabbit stew and it was fine, but certainly not the wonderfully rich flavors of that stew the European couple served. Unfortunately I never got their recipe, but have dreamt of it ever since. It may be that because of time and distance, I have built up the flavor memory in my mind, but maybe not. I was so unsure of what to expect at the time, so I was extremely pleased to enjoy the dish so thoroughly.

I once ate hare in Chicago, which was also prepared deliciously, but that rabbit stew still tops my list of wishes to try one more time. Rabbit can be found in many groceries and specialty markets, and these are likely domesticated. Domesticated or farmed rabbits will be less gamey than if procured in the wild. Rabbit called for in recipes could be substituted with chicken, turkey and possibly even pork. Hare is gamier, a much heavier red meat requiring different recipes. They are generally known as jackrabbits, or in the north, there are snowshoe hare. Hunters are more likely to cook rabbit or hare than other folk in the US. Recipes that call for hare can usually substitute another red meat for the hare. Beef or venison, even wild boar, could be substituted in recipes calling for hare.

I would love to be given another opportunity to try cooking a rabbit stew. The only problem is finding a recipe. My one time trial was not a success, though the food was good. I am leery of trying again with another unexciting result. These days, with internet so prevalent, there are recipes everywhere. It is more possible today to find something that would approximate that wonderful rabbit stew recipe than even a few years ago. It could be that rabbit was once known as a poor man’s food, and the Depression era likely made that idea stick. Rabbit has been looked down upon as a meat source for the poor. Then the advent of super groceries where all meat is clean and packaged has made people pretend that clean, packaged meat was never a live animal. All meat comes from a live animal. Rabbits are edible and delicious, with the added bonus of being a healthy meat. Variety is important in the diet, whether meat, vegetable or grain.

I intend to continue my search for that recipe for a southern Swiss or northern Italian rabbit stew, and hope to find it or one like it. I urge people to become more adventurous in their eating. We have become a society where any meat outside of beef, pork, chicken or turkey is considered exotic and we are fearful of trying anything new. Open your mind to new foods and flavors. There is so much diversity to be had.