Whenever I’m not sure what to write about, I try to remember things that embarrassed me growing up. Without fail, it leads to something special; something I loved despite outside influences telling me not to; something that helped shape me into the person I am today. And not surprisingly, it usually leads to thoughts of food: lamb brains or Nutella; pig’s feet or rabbit. I would have rather died than let outsiders know I loved these things. But meanwhile, Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house couldn’t come fast enough, where at least one of those favorites always made an appearance. We’d pile into their basement kitchen after church and not emerge until mid-day, our chins stained with sauce, our ears buzzing from so much yelling about who-knows-what.
As I write about these memories, I can’t help but wonder: Why do they have to be frozen in the past? Why can’t we keep making them? We get so caught up in weekend routines, laundry, errands, vacuuming (yes, my weekends are *that* exciting). We don’t make time for church, let alone an hours-long dinner with family. Then there’s the issue of geography. Our generation was built to move, it seems. We go to college, get jobs in cities away from home. So we exist on our own little islands, away from grandma and grandpa, cousins, and even siblings. We’ve replaced Sunday dinner with Skype sessions; weekend meals with weekly emails.
If geography is the issue, we can still clear our Sunday table for a home-cooked meal. Maybe it means we do it with friends instead of parents or cousins, which is even nicer in its own way. For those of us who don’t have geography to blame, let’s pick up the phone this weekend, call our grandparents or siblings, and ask them to come over. If kids are involved, maybe it will create a memory just special enough that it will round the bend to embarrassing.
In honor of this weekend mission, I want to share my most loved, most mortifying Sunday food: rabbit stew. We grew up eating it with a vinegar-based tomato sauce that my parents perfected over the years (although my mom and dad continually argue over the best approach). My favorite version includes chopped green olives, capers, and celery. When you’re done, your fingers and chin will be tinged red through tomorrow. And you’ll have a pile of tiny, tiny bones on your plate that resemble frog legs more than chicken. Should you be caught gnawing on a rabbit thigh or shoulder by anyone outside your familial circle, it’s guaranteed to embarrass the hell out of you—in the best way possible.
P.S. Hi! It’s been a while.
Sicilian Rabbit Stew
Note: I’m providing suggested measurements, but measuring to taste is really the way to go.
1 rabbit, cut into large pieces
2 cups dry white wine
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup capers
¼ cup chopped green olives
6 ounces tomato paste, dissolved in enough water to coat all ingredients (about 2 to 3 cups)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Wash and thoroughly dry the rabbit with a dishtowel. In a large frying pan, sauté the rabbit in dry white wine until just cooked (a good indicator is when you don’t see any more blood). Remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, sauté the celery, capers, and olives in olive oil. Set aside.
Bring the tomato paste and water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add the vinegar, celery, capers, and olives. Season with basil and oregano to taste. Add the rabbit and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
The capers and olives are very salty, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding any salt.