Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Prosciutto wrapped roasted lapin: bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies*

This week has been marked by a restlessness: a desire to push my comfort zone and tackle the odd and the unknown.

The foray into rabbit, whilst not exactly a disaster, revealed for me the personal operation of a cultural taboo around food consumption. In short: I found this confronting. And I was surprised to be confronted. After all, I have autopsied calamari and daintily eaten a tichy-tiny whole quail and cooked live mussels and plucked a chicken and eaten raw horse. I have been offended when guests refuse to eat veal. I am not squeamish nor fussy.

Except: the consumption of the hoppity back legs of a little bunny: a bridge too far. It should have been delicious: wrapped in prosciutto, pan-seared in foaming butter and roasted in thyme and sage, served with pumpkin and parsnip puree and a reduced jus of wine and rabbit stock.

But there were tendons and unfamiliar bones and above all the little voice in the back of my head which kept saying ‘BUNNY’ over and over. The strength of my reaction was utterly unexpected.

I was reminded, both of Anya in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her dreadful fear of rabbits*, and the introduction to the Orders of Things*, because I found myself face to face with the laughter that shatters and the stark impossibility of eating that.

The question underneath this for me is: what other assumptions and cultural preferences am I blind to? Is irrational food avoidance (ie, not consciously chosen and without foundation) any different to other kinds of prejudice? And am I already too comfortable (and well fed) to even notice?

* For example: Episode 7, Series 6, Once more with Feeling: “Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes, they’ve got those hoppy legs and those twitchy little noses. And what’s with all the carrots, what do they need such good eyesight for anyway?”. (Directed by Josh Whedon).

** “This book first arose out of a passage in [Jorge Luis] Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” Michel Foucault The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences Pantheon Books 1970

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