The Food Almanac: Thursday, June 6th, 2013

It's National Rabbit Day!
Ewan Munro

Food And War
On this date in 2000, on the anniversary of D-Day in 1944, the D-Day Museum opened in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. It was a big success, and expanded its scope to become the World War II Museum. It's a great place to visit, and it gets better with each year. That has made a big difference in that neighborhood, not just for the excellence of the museum, but also in triggering the opening and success of quite a few restaurants. They include Sun Ray Grill, Cochon, A Mano, Ugly Dog Saloon, Eleven 79, and the restaurant right in the museum itself: American Sector, with its 1940s theme.

Roots Of Creole Cuisine 
On this date in 1716, the first slaves arrived in Louisiana. Slavery is not something to celebrate, of course. But its victims did enhance the Creole cuisine by mixing African flavors with French ones. Creole cooking is as much African as anything else.

Food Around The World
This is the national day of Sweden. It notes the independence of Sweden from the Danish Kalmar Union on this date in 1523, when the first king of Sweden took the throne. Americans suppose that the food of Sweden is boring, but in its specialties--fish, particularly salmon and herring--it can be delicious. The Swedes have a tastes for crawfish, but cook it in a much milder way than we do in Louisiana. Also good is smorgasbord, which might be the world's oldest formal buffet. The favored tipple in Sweden is akvavit--a kind of vodka flavored with herbs and spices, notably caraway. The toast is "skoal!"

Today's Flavor
Today is National Rabbit Day. Eating rabbit is different. It's not chicken, it's not fish, it's not beef, it's not pork. There's nothing else we eat that's really like it. On the other hand, everything about the flavor and texture of rabbit recommends it. Rabbit is almost absurdly tender, very lean, flavorful without being gamy, and heaven knows they're not endangered. Its only problem is that many people can't bring themselves to eat the adorable bunny they've come to love through cartoons.

The rabbit we encounter in restaurants and stores is farm-raised and very young--usually only about three months old. Although I don't think it's really necessary, it's often marinated in wine and savory herbs for awhile.

The legs are the toughest parts, as they are in a chicken or duck. Those are best cooked slowly and with a lot of moisture. The loins (also called the "saddle" when kept whole) consists more or less of what would be the rib roasts in beef. Those can be roasted or even grilled.

On the other hand, a rabbit can be halved and slow-roasted in two pieces, again like a chicken or a duck. When this is done with a natural stock and some herbs and vegetables, you have a delicious thing indeed, as tender as anything you can eat.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Rabbit Town is in northeast Alabama, sixty-eight miles northeast of Birmingham. To some extent, it's beginning to be a suburb of Birmingham, with a mix of theme housing developments and some big homes on large spreads of land. And dairy farms, too. Many restaurant chain locations are a mile or two away on US 431. The most intriguing in that cluster is Papa Dubie's. I wonder if they serve rabbit?

Annals Of Food And Drink Advertising
In front of a house on US 190 in Louisiana there once stood a hand-painted sign that read, "Rabbits. Pets or Meat." . . . The label for Coca-Cola was patented today in 1887 by J.S. Pemberton.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Whenever I serve rabbit, I don't tell anybody what it is until after they've finished and told me how great they think the dish is. Then I laugh as they cry.

Deft Dining Rule #72
A server who responds to your legitimate complaint with an immediate argument as to why you're wrong should be told that you want to see the manager.

Food Namesakes
Here's an irony: today in 1913, Walter "Rabbit" Maranville, a Hall of Fame baseball player, was thrown out trying to steal home three times in a single game. . . Record producer Jimmy Jam was born today in 1959. . . .Bulgarian singer and ballerina Mariana Popova gave her first note today in 1978. (Get it? Popover?)

Edible Dictionary 
madrilene, [mad-rih-LEHN], French, n., adj.--The classical canon of French cookery, in which almost everything was strictly defined, has been fading in importance. While many classic dishes are still going strong, there has been a lot more leeway for chefs' interpretations. This has resulted in the disappearance of a lot of old dishes. Madrilene--which is not much more than a beef consomme to which tomato juice has been added and cooked until the flavors are right--is one of those. I remember seeing it during my grocery-store days in its canned form--always under the label of a brand perceived as gourmet, like Crosse and Blackwell or Reese. The name madrilene means "in the style of Madrid," which in turn once referred to anything with tomato in it. That usage became extinct. but the soup lived on to enjoy its present near-oblivion.

Words To Eat By
"Rarebit. n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and that riz-de-veau à la financière is not the smile of a calf prepared after the recipe of a she banker."--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

"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.

Words To Drink By
"Many are saved from sin by being so inept at it."--Mignon McLaughlin, American writer, born today in 1913.