Half Way There, oh oh

Did you see it? I was in the paper of record and then I got to do a guest blog, too.

It has generated some hate. Scroll down to comments. I know I could just erase their crazy talk, but somehow, I kind of love them. They’re like, “Hmmm, maybe she doesn’t know rabbits are kept as pets. I’m going to set her straight.” People: I know you keep rabbits as pets. That’s great! It’s not like I want to eat your rabbit. Christ.

Now: onto food. I’ve gotten used to feeling vaguely hungry. Which is a good thing for any chowhound. It means I can wait for something really good to come along. Which it did. Check out this beauty!


A friend came by and bestowed a couple chantrelles on me. I promptly fried them up with some chunks of poached rabbit (ahem), sprinkled some parsley over the top, and there you go, heaven on a fork.


Served with potatoes (running low) and kraut. For dessert: Bebe’s ricotta (she’s a wizard in the kitchen, her cloven feet really don’t impede her at all) topped with peach preserves. Heaven.

Speaking of kraut and whey. I attempted to make chickweed kraut. There’s a scrambling mess of chickweed near my office, and I heard you can make a fermented product out of it. I chopped the chickweed, added salt, poured in some whey, then poured in some liquid from a batch of “real” kraut. After a few days I sampled it. It’s actually kind of good. Chickweed has a nice grassy, springtime flavor to it. And don’t worry–it’s not just cat pee–I washed it, OK?

25 responses to “Half Way There, oh oh

  1. “Rabbits are made for eating. After all, they are made from meat.”

  2. I love chanterelles. They grow in the woods at my sister-in-law’s house, and somewhere in the archives I have a picture of a big, black, iron frying pan full of them sizzling in butter. The picture is absolute food porn, and a reminder of a great food memory. Your dish sounds delish.

  3. Maureen in Oakland

    Hmmm, Chantrellles. I wish I knew where to pick em around here. I know they are all over and it just drives me nuts that I don’t have the know how to find them.

  4. Congradulations! I think it was a great piece and I applaud your contributions to the backyard farming community.

  5. wow! that’s some serious hate. diana would flip her lid to know that for the last 3 years we’ve had a lovely meal of fried rabbit for easter dinner. what can i say, rabbit is tasty.

    btw, read your book. dumpster diving for your pigs!!! awesome. but now all grand ideas of raising a pig is dead. so wish i could have chickens though.

    keep up the brilliant work.
    love it!!!!

  6. didn’t read the misguided musings; I remember going to the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market many many years ago and buying rabbit. What a treat it was, too. I think Wild Fermentation’s Sandor Katz has a recipe for chickweed. but maybe you already know that!

  7. Well, here’s what I have to say to you about rabbits–I have a rabbit in my freezer. Funnily enough it’s never bothered me (though I heard they do scream when they are processed, which is a bit disturbing). I think I got scratched too many times by them at the “county fair” as a kid to be sympathetic?

  8. Rabbits are protein, pets or not. On our homestead we are used to people wrinkling their nose at the idea that we eat what we raise. Then they leave here and go to McD’s for meat that was slaughtered while standing in 8 inches of excrement, Yummy, yummy! http://www.ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

  9. “That’s great! It’s not like I want to eat your rabbit. Christ.”

    Hilarious. I have two (pet) rabbits. My rabbit eating days are over, but I still think that raising meat rabbits is a great option for other homesteaders and small farms. Another diner’s dinner doesn’t threaten me.

  10. People are often idiotic. I raised rabbits in 4-H as a kid, and we ate them after their show career was over. And rabbit fur is wonderful too.

  11. Novella,

    I just discovered your website because of the Times article. I think what you are doing is great! I am curious if you are going to be doing any more events like this in NYC in the future as I would love to go.

  12. I love my rabbits and I butcher and eat them too!

    re: Chickweed, when I have infused it into oil to make ointments, it made LOTS of gas. I’m wondering if your ferment is doing this too? Just curious…

    re: Chanterelles – mmmmmm! We find those under oaks in autumn here.

    great blog, by the way.

  13. My mother-in-law refused to eat rabbit — but not because they were cute or anything like that. She ate so much during the war (rabbit was cheap then) she was sick of them. I wish rabbit was as easy to buy as chicken.

  14. Ignore the hate, Novella. People are idiots. Also, most of these vegetarians are just hysterical from protein starvation! ; )

  15. I just started raising meat rabbits though I used to breed and still have 2 pet rabbits. I also have pet bantom chickens living in my basement until spring and more larger meat/egg type are coming. I think as a society we have seperated ourself so much from our food that if our food sources ever ended people would die even though they have food growing all around them.

  16. ghosttownfarm

    T: I love that you have both pets and food rabbits. Wonderful!
    Adjunct: totally.
    Laurie: You know, it is a bit, um, soggy. not gassy yet.
    Leio: I’m not sure. it was hard to organize from the west coast. maybe i’ll have a class at my farm and you’ll just have to come over to oakland. i think there’s a farm in the hudson valley (something thistle?) teaches rabbit classes. good luck!
    maureen: there everywhere in tilden, under oaks.

  17. we raise vegetables/herbs/chickens in our backyard. have 1 pet rabbit, but would like to either raise a few for table and/or collect them from the field (16 guage). i’ve killed and dressed dove/quail/pheasant/chickens/rabbits/trout in the past, but wonder about a field dressing method i heard about. the bottom of the cavity is opened and the top attachments are severed, then a quick whipsnap dislodges the innards for disposal. have you heard of this? btw – chanterelles are the best!!!

  18. I have chickens in my backyard, and am considering rabbits maybe in a couple years (need to get all the planting beds arranged and deal with bees first). There’s a huge disconnect with where our food comes from, culturally.

    What happens when the apocalypse comes and zombies prevent us from hitting the grocery stores? If I can’t dispatch a chicken if not to feed myself but my two cats, what use am I? Well, the cats are going to be sorely disappointed in me as a provider, that’s for sure. So will I.

    I read all the hater comments over at NY Times and it really is a lot of sound and fury. And emotion that isn’t really directed into a useful direction, but that’s another topic. Are we here to survive and make the best of what we have, or are we supposed to rely on a sorely broken food distribution system that exploits and abuses animals more than anyone in their little backyard EVER could.

  19. Madam, you have inspired me!

    I tend my garden, and have been gearing up to keep laying hens, with the hope that my two sons (6 months and 2 years old) will have a connection and a respect for what goes into their bodies. I now think that keeping rabbits will actually be next on our list, before the chickens, as I am finding it very hard to feed our meat-loving family on a single, non-profit-based salary! (I should say, to feed us meat from sources that I feel comfortable supporting. )

    I am wondering, your class at Biofuel is full. Any other rabbit classes in the works? I will be there, for sure! Also, I’d love an opportunity to visit/lend a hand in your farm. If my little ones could see all that you do, even better!

    Thanks!!!

  20. trevligresa

    I think you are awesome and I hope you come back to NYC! It’s not YOUR fault lazy parents who are too busy for cats and dogs give their children rodents as pets.

  21. Really? Everyone who posted a complaint about the NYT article was a “hater” with invalid points?

    As a pet rabbit owner and meat-eater (not rabbit), I saw several thoughtful comments there. Of course there would be high emotion — the tone of that NYT piece was extremely disrespectful to the animals and to those of us who consider them part of the family. Maybe in the future we’ll have a similar “ain’t we edgy” piece on humane vs. inhumane killing practices in animal shelters. Gas chamber, needle stick … there are many ways to kill a kitten. And psst … don’t tell the kids.

    Regardless, what bothered me the most of many things about that piece was the way a rabbit “ranch” was described. Ranch? Those rabbits are shown in tiny, tiny cages. Is there no concern about raising them humanely? Meaning giving them some room to move. Maybe even a crazy notion like exercise outside the tiny cage?

    Think of all those dirty little lap dogs in puppy mills, those images that horrify so many people. That is the feeling I get looking at those tiny, wire-bottomed rabbit cages. My rabbits sure do like running around a bit and digging (I think the crazies call that “ability to perform natural behaviors”).

    And wow, what a pleasant anecdote in the comments … the one about about raccoons eating rabbit feet off. When I see the immense ignorance in the country about dogs and cats, I shudder to think of the cruelty rabbits will suffer when this “hobby” of farming them gets more popular. It’s bad enough the way they are treated now when they are considered family pets.

    Don’t tell the kids? No, tell them. Plant the seeds for millons of new vegetarians. (Wish I had the conviction and energy to go the veggie route.) When my friend told me what she saw in a commercial pig facility, I stopped eating pork that day, minus the items I buy from small sustainable farms.

    Going to eat meat? Eat meat. But raise the animals humanely … beyond what is convenient for you. Oh, and maybe when you’re learning how to break their necks, you can practice on a few that have been SEDATED first. Because (don’t tell the foodies) rabbits feel fear and pain when they are mistreated.

  22. ghosttownfarm

    hi amy;
    i think your comments are totally valid. and yes, it is highly emotional. i agree that the tone of the article could have been a bit more respectful (as my class was). it never mentioned the fact that there was a two hour lecture where i talked about humanely raising rabbits and that it was a huge responsibility not to be entered lightly, and finally that raising rabbits is a way for people who don’t have much money to afford healthy, hormone-free, non-feed lot meat. it’s also about copping to your meat eating. i would suggest that if you eat meat (as you do), you at least kill that animal once yourself, or witness it on the farm. if you don’t, you’ll never really know what you are eating–what had to happen for you to sustain yourself. it’s powerful, and it’s what i wanted to share with my students. otherwise, we are like children, never really knowing anything about where our food comes from, and just trusting parents like safeway, whole foods, etc.
    as for the humanely butchering: first we burned some sage and thanked the rabbits for their lives. then each rabbit was knocked unconscious instantly and then killed. the reporter made it seem like the rabbits were tortured, but they were not, they were always unconscious when they were killed (heads cut off with lopers).
    Finally, my goal was to teach each person, who will eventually go off and eat thousands of animals in their lifetime, on one day, what it means to eat meat. i’m certain they will be more conscious about this sacrifice for the rest of their lives.

  23. Novella,

    Thank you for your response. It does not surprise me that the main stream media decided to cheapen the story, much as it disappoints me and scares me on behalf of all the neck-breaking hobbyists it will inspire. When one rabbit was knocked out and “harvested” or whatever the euphemism is, did any other rabbits witness it?

    If so, I would encourage all harvesters to spare the rabbits this sight as they really, truly are quite bright and they will understand what is happening. Isn’t that a major part of Temple Grandin’s work, the aspect of humane slaughter that dictates that the cows have NO IDEA what is coming when they enter the slaughterhouse? And once inside BAM it’s an immediate death? I would like a death like that.

    By the way, I have indeed experienced slaughter on a small — actually, tiny — farm. I even helped out that day. Don’t need to kill my own food animals to “get it,” but I think the experience was helpful.

    My growing concern for food animals has come from very inconvenient reminders over recent years — a disturbing magazine ad here, a disturbing anecdote from a mid-west vegan there — and eventually I just had to change my eating and buying habits to support more humane practices.

    So on that note … what is the definition of “humane” as far as the rabbits’ basic need for exercise is concerned?

    How long, on average, do these small urban farm rabbits live in those small cages, without ever being allowed out of their cage to dig, run, leap?

    If they are confined their entire lives, on the continuum of greed and indifference and disrespect …. how is this all THAT different from the lives of those poor pigs who live with their tails being chewed off in factory farms? Or chickens that never get to feel dirt under their beaks (if they are given the privilege of keeping their beaks).

    Thank you.

  24. BTW, chickweed is an awesome salad green. Full of nutrients. Why it is called a weed, I do not know, except that it grows lavishly and generously everywhere. I eat it raw, yum.

  25. My mother had a friend that would deliver us a grocery bag full of chantrelles every year. I miss the taste of them. Your meal sounds absolutely devine!

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