At the end of last week, I put out a contract on a poor innocent animal and ordered its execution.
The experience has been, to say the least, thought provoking.
Like most meat-eaters, I generally get my animal flesh from the grocery store, just as nature intended. The river of denial runs deep, and it doesn’t hurt that everything in the meat case is shrink-wrapped and sanitary with all unpleasantness already performed by trained professionals. It’s relatively easy for me to distance myself from reality and not acknowledge that all those clean, shiny USDA-approved packages contain the remains of living creatures. That denial has been hard won.
When I was a very little boy, my grandparents had chickens and occasionally one of them would make its way to the dinner table.
Grandpa would chop off the chicken’s head with an axe and then the dead chicken would take a misguided victory lap around the back yard, making the most God-awful squeals and shrieks in some kind of deranged headless horseman impersonation, before collapsing into a bloody dead heap. You’ve heard the old saying, “run around like a chicken with its head cut off.” Yeah, that’s a real thing and I’ve got a visual for it.
Thanks to that particular childhood trauma, I didn’t eat chicken until I was an adult and even then only chicken that came in a boneless and skinless condition. I needed a lot of distance from those shrieking, feathered childhood memories. For decades, if I tried to eat a piece of fried chicken, I could taste a mouthful of imaginary feathers and had to choke them back so as not to emit big feathery gasps like Jack Nicholson in “The Witches of Eastwick.”
One might assume that considering my rather delicate history with the food chain and my very studied denial of the origin of grocery store meat, getting real on a rabbit farm might not have been the wisest course of action for me. One would be correct in that assumption.
We have established that I am not exactly lion-hearted. But I thought it would be a kick to do a food story for Easter involving rabbit. My sense of irony is clearly stronger than my stomach.
Just ordering the death of the rabbit was stressful enough. I didn’t even kill him myself, much less skin or gut him. But I am responsible for his death. After all, he was casually chilling in his hutch, munching on some rabbit kibble without a care in the world until I put in the call that was his death warrant.
It probably wouldn’t have been so difficult if I hadn’t asked to see the rest of the rabbits, to get a ‘before’ picture. Especially since I was holding the shrink-wrapped package containing their late companion. That seemed to breech the bounds of good taste, and probably brushed up on disrespectful. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it but it was somewhat unnerving to take pictures of cute, cuddly bunnies; camera in one hand, dead bunny in the other, all the while discussing the pros and cons of biscuits vs. cornbread as an accompaniment to rabbit gravy.
That’s about my limit on “getting real” with the food chain. I think hunters have the best perspective on meat-eating; they see the creature, kill the creature, skin and gut the creature and by the time they’ve got all that nastiness out of the way and are cutting the animal into steaks and chops or whatever, they have a clear line of vision to where those steaks and chops came from. There is mindfulness every step of the way. They have every right to feast on that critter if they so choose. It’s been earned.
If earning that right was mandatory, I’d have to become a vegetarian. I clearly don’t have what it takes.
But meanwhile, the rabbit was delicious or rather, the wine and mushroom sauce resulting from his preparation was delicious. I only ate one bite of the actual rabbit. It seemed disrespectful not to, since he had died for me and all. But that bite was, as millions of Frenchmen will tell you, quite delicious. With only the fainest hint of soft, fluffy, imaginary fur.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.