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Food and Drink

Jack the Rabbit vs. E. Bunny



If you hit New York City during the traditional Easter Parade, whether you're Alice or not, chances are you'll feel like you tumbled down the rabbit hole into a surreal wonderland.

These days the spectacle along Fifth Avenue is more of an amble than a parade. When Easter bonnets do show up - and I use the term "bonnet" loosely - they're bigger and more colourful than the stained glass windows in Saint Patrick's cathedral as participants vie for attention.

More likely you'll see mad hatters with giant green or purple fuzzy bunny ears the size of the Empire State Building and sexy Jessica Rabbit knock-offs rather than the frilly bonnets immortalized in Irving Berlin's classic song.

Rabbits, with their inherent symbolism of fertility and sexual potency, have long been associated with Easter and all rites of spring. We've just not seen them on the dinner table lately.

But why can't we fix that, given rabbit can be one of the most exquisite tasting and healthiest meats you'd ever want to cross utensils over. And what better way to celebrate it than making it the centrepiece for a striking Easter dinner. Just tell the kids it's chicken if you think it might upset them.

Then again, little chicks are featured on Easter egg wrappers and cards. So tell them it's special tofu only made at Easter.

I have a theory based on politics regarding the domination of Easter dinner by, A., the misused turkey, which gets star billing at most holiday dinners but should really be served more often year-round given it's easy preparation and excellent nutritional qualities, and, B., by the tubby little ham, which can be delicious if you source it right but usually is loaded with questionable additives such as phosphates and nitrites and half the salt from the Dead Sea on top of presenting a horrid jelly-like texture like Porky Pig's belly. (One Australian study found that some hams, imported from North America, contained up to 38 per cent water and as little as 53 per cent pork.)

There are the politics of lobbying by pork interests and otherwise. And then we have class politics left from medieval times when increased settlement and the control of lands by noblemen meant that hunting, for rabbits and otherwise, became greatly restricted - the domain of one smaller, richer class over another.

Another part of my theory is that the turning of our backs and the clamping down of our pot lids against the misunderstood rabbit can be traced back to the cultural fabric of roughly the same period.

For it was the mighty Moors as they occupied Andalusian Spain who savoured many a rabbit, connoisseurs of quality meats that they were. No doubt that's at least one reason why rabbit lingered in popularity in that part of the world, at least more so than it does in the New World.

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