05 January 2008

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Of the umpteen different books I’m reading at any given time [books I’ve abandoned midway up to three years ago I still consider being read] is a collection of M.F.K. Fisher’s culinary tomes entitled The Art of Eating.

While I am unable to elucidate in the manor of a great and learned gastronome such as Mrs. Fisher, I giggle with delight when I read her. She is a recent discovery; a purchase from the lovely Skylight bookshop in Los Feliz [Los Angeles]. As a side note, I applaud their commitment to the small press [their periodical/zine section was immense].

Mrs. Fisher’s books [written in the 50’s] border on the whimsical, and her style loose and free. Anecdotes from friends, a wine reminding her of a bold combination of ingredients. casting her mind back through subjects Like the smoke from the after dinner cigarette, she wafts through memory and story tenderly and with great poise.

But I digress. Herewith a quote within in a quote I found most modern. In the chapter “I Arise Resigned” from her book Serve it Forth, we find her on the subject of the last drink. The first part is Mrs. Fisher, then she quotes from the French painter, literary critic and Gourmet Paul Reboux.

“There is a recipe in one of Paul Reboux’s entertaining cookbooks which explains this custom of pre-lethal drinking not too inappropriately. He is discussing the preparation of a rabbit for execution.

‘Many people,’ he says, ‘whose stomachs are more demanding than their hearts are tender, raise rabbit only to eat them.

‘This is in itself an act of human energy which I would not know how to accomplish. Intimate family life with a rabbit, strengthened by our daily relations, would make me no more capable of devouring my little animal than I would be of eating one of my friends.

‘However, if your sense of realism be strong enough, and if you want your rabbit to be even better than your neighbour’s, take care to nourish it---‘

“Monsieur Reboux tells with his own detached care the schedule for feeding: warm milk while the beastie is still nursing from its mother, tender lettuce and meadow salads as it grows older, a few succulent carrots and grains of corn. And herbs, of course, to perfume its flesh before it is cooked rather than after.

“It will enjoy leek soup, he advises, and rich hot potato broth with bread. And even, on Sundays, a little bowl of café au lait!

‘Finally, the day of the execution, give him a glass of good marc to drink. Rum, although traditional for such occasions, will render him less careless of his fate. After this, you will without scruple be able to give to his little neck the final and decisive blow. Your rabbit will already be in such a state of anaesthesia that nothing can matter to him.

‘Thus you are assured of having given him a beautiful life, and a beautiful death!’”

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