What a fine fellow was Peter Cottontail, that fluffy little bunny who delighted us as children by bringing chocolate Easter eggs. Hoppin’ down the bunny trail…Shame he decided to hop across the pond to France. Perhaps he didn’t speak the local lingo? When he said he was delivering Easter candy, perhaps something got lost in translation? It must have sounded like “chop off my head and put it in the frying pan.”
The first time I ever ate rabbit was at Easter Sunday lunch chez my beaux-parents. Seeing those little body parts floating in wine sauce was a little shocking to my anglophone sensibilities: not that I object to eating our furry friends on principle, just that rabbit had never been on the menu before.
Rabbit is traditionally eaten not just at Easter (when lamb is the more traditional dish) but all year long in France. It is appreciated for its lean white meat and good value — rabbit can be bought very cheaply and served in dozens of ways.
The French have no notion of the Easter bunny. The tradition in France is that the church bells, les cloches, fly off to Rome and return for Pâques with chocolates for the children.
And when the French sit down to Sunday lunch, with the Easter bunny as the guest of honor, no effort is made to soften the blow for those with finer sentiments. I remember that Beau-père served up the dish on a lovely platter, the tiny head one of several parts. My mother-in-law had a penchant for la tête. It was finicky, so she picked it up and ate it with her fingers, finely picking the bones with her teeth.
He was a good rabbit. May his memory live on in our hearts.
Bon appétit et Joyeuses Pâques!