Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The 100th Monkey Effect

Albrecht Durer, A Young Hare 1502.
Back in January when I wrote the entries Jackrabbit Hunting  and Jackrabbit Cuisine  I searched for Jackrabbit recipes online and did not find much. Of course, my idea was to try some classic European hare recipes using Jack rabbit.   Since then, I have discovered a really delightful  blog called Hunter Angler Gardener Cook by Hank Shaw.  (The site is so good he was nominated for a James Beard award.) It is well worth the time to peruse the pages there.  He has written about Jack rabbits and hunting them and has a number of great looking recipes including one for Sardinian Hare Stew  and a recipe for Jugged Hare and a similar one for Civet de Livre.

I can't help but feel a bit like there is a 100th monkey effect at play here.  The claim made by proponents of the 100th monkey effect is that once an idea becomes known by enough monkeys (say 100), it has enough force to spontaneously spread to geographically isolated populations.  Soon everyone will be hunting, cooking, eating and writing about Jackrabbits.  Well, maybe not. But with the growing popularity of the local food movement, locavore hunting,  ethical meat and butchering, slow cooking and whole beast dining, this kind of thing is bound to happen.  There are so many classic European recipes for hare and those of us who like to hunt and gather our own food of course are quite likely to try substituting Jack rabbits for the European hare.  But there seems to be a larger meat movement underway.  For a time vegetarians  seemed to claim the moral high ground but meat is where it's at these days.

Twenty years ago I made a rather personal decision that if I was going to eat meat I should be able to hunt, kill and butcher my own meat.  This was pretty radical because no one in my family hunted.  I didn't feel I had to hunt, kill and butcher all the meat I ate, but at least some of it. I like beef and pork and lamb far too much to swear it off for a rather abstract ethical position.  Of course this killing and butchering business is not for everyone and I never really expected others to take it up, but for me it was essential.  And now, after Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma hit the best seller list it seems like all of the sudden my non-traditional hunting friends and I are on the leading edge of a new food movement.  Gerry is writing his own book about it and as far as I can tell, Gil is holed up on a farm somewhere in the mid-Atlantic states trying to reproduce the Jamon Iberico that the customs people confiscated on his return from Spain.

As for Jackrabbits vs. European hares.  I saw many European Hares  in Scotland though sadly I was not in a position to harvest them.  All hunting and fishing rights in Scotland are owned by someone, and I was no one.  Hank points out that you can buy Wild Scottish Hare from from D'Artagnan, purveyors of exotic gourmet meats and foods.  It would be nice to do a side-by-side comparison of  identical dishes prepared with Jackrabbit and European Hare.  I like the looks of Hank Shaw's  Sardinian Hare Stew, but maybe the comparison should be on something with a less rich sauce, something that would allow the flavors to really come through, perhaps a terrine.  The European hare from D'Artagnan is not inexpensive, but the experiment would be worthwhile.  If you try it, let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Hundredth monkey, I knew it. Rabbits, not hares, but check out the
    slide show and article in the NY Times today about a class in Brooklyn on killing, cleaning and cooking rabbits.