Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Furry Things"

Today July 12th …

The master of the good ship ‘Felicity’ recorded in his log on this day in 1820 his decisive action in the face of potential disaster.

“Mate reports that seaman had brought one of those furry things on board in a covered cage. Ordered its neck wrung and body thrown overboard.”

What is difficult to understand is how any seaman would have considered taking a “furry thing” aboard ship in the first place. A longstanding sailors’ superstition was that “furry things” would bring unspeakably bad luck at sea, notwithstanding that a single one of their feet is considered bring the opposite on dry land. Even speaking the real name of the “furry thing” (if you are on dry land right now, you can say it - “rabbit”) was considered extremely risky. Rabbits were sometimes believed to be the avatars of witches, so perhaps the sailors’ fear of “furry things” was part of the general superstition about women aboard ships – a ship being a woman herself, therefore prone to jealousy and acts of violent revenge.

It seems fairly certain that rabbit stew would never come out of any ship’s galley, but luckily, there are no superstitions about serving rabbit to guests on dry land. A good host would never willingly shock the guests with the choice of dinner dish, but it is always good to surprise them:

Rabbits Surprised.
Take young rabbits, skewer them, and put the same pudding into them as directed for roasted rabbits. When they be roasted, draw out the jaw-bones, and stick them in the eyes, to appear like horns. Then take off the meat clean from the bones; but the bones must be left whole. Chop the meat very fine, with a little shred parsley, some lemon-peel, an ounce of beef marrow, a spoonful of cream, and a little salt. Beat up the yolks of two eggs boiled hard, and a small piece of butter, in a marble mortar; then mix all together, and put it into a tossing pan. Having stewed it five minutes, lay it on the rabbit where you took the meat off, and put it close down with your hand, to make it appear like a whole rabbit. Then with a salamander brown it all over. Pour a good brown gravy, made as thick as cream, into the dish, and stick a bunch of myrtle in their mouths. Send them up to table, with their livers boiled and frothed.

[From ‘The London art of cookery, ...’ Farley, John (1800)]

Tomorrow: The Prince in the Colonies.

Quotation for the Day …

I don't go for the nouvelle approach-serving a rabbit rump with coffee extract sauce and a slice of kiwi fruit. Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet).

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