By Michelle Perkins
I feel like yesterday it was only Christmas and this morning I woke up and Easter is just around the corner.
I am guessing most of us know the meaning behind the Easter Holiday so there is no need to repeat that story – although it is worth remembering that the man at the center of our four-day holiday was a lover like us of the vino. Just like at our Fabulous Ladies Wine Society events, the wine was flowing freely at the Last Supper!
After pouring a glass of this month’s online wine club’s Logan Savvy B to help me get inspired, I started thinking about the symbols of Easter – especially those that don’t appear to have a relationship with the original story.
Easter in the northern hemisphere falls in spring. A time of new life and rebirth. Eggs are an obvious symbol of this…but what about the Easter Bunny who comes around and hides eggs for the kiddies? Where on earth did HE come from?
Like many ancient symbols there are a few stories about the origin of the rabbit that come from eastern traditions. The rabbit (or hare) has long been a symbol of fertility because of the frequency with which they reproduce.
The hare has also said to have been a symbol of virginity and was once thought to be a hermaphrodite giving it the ability to reproduce without a mate (which gives us a VERY loose association with the virgin Mary.)
The story most references seem to agree on though when trying to explain how rabbits and eggs became part of the same story, is the one about Oestre, a goddess in German paganism. Oestre was said to have the features of a rabbit, and is at the center of pagan Easter celebrations as she drives away winter and brings forth new life.
It is said that one day Oestre came across a dying bird frozen in the winter snow. Taking pity on the little bird she took it in her arms, warmed it up and brought is back to life. The bird, though, had lost the ability to fly. So Oestre turned it into a rabbit who became known as Lepus, and eventually Oestres’ lover.
The only bird feature that remained with Lepus was the ability to lay eggs…and here’s where the idea of rabbits bringing eggs all starts!
What became of Lepus and Oestres? Well turns out that old Lepus was a bit promiscuous (I mean, he was a rabbit) and Oestre, like any goddess worth her salt, was not down with this at all. So she flung him into the sky where he has forever remained the rabbit (constellation of Lepus) being hunted by the warrior Orion (constellation of Orion). Ancient girl-power at it’s best!
History lesson over, let’s get to the food! I first thought that perhaps I shouldn’t put forth this months recipe – after all it did seem a bit morbid to eat bunny at this time of year.
But now I know about his cheating ways I don’t feel guilty at all! So here it is Liguarian Rabbit – a lovely Italian stew. And one that uses plenty of wine! A good butcher will be able to get rabbit in for you if you ask. Also ask the butcher to divide it up into 8 pieces for you.
Ingredients for 3-4 servings:
1 rabbit, 1 garlic clove, 1 rib of celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, handful rosemary, handful fresh thyme, 1 glass of white wine (Vermentino is best – as it’s the original Ligurian white wine!), handful of small olives, handful pine nuts, olive oil
Wash the rabbit pieces and dry them. Put them into a frying pan and brown the rabbit with a garlic clove over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then add a finely chopped onion, celery and carrot.
Turn up heat and add the rosemary, the thyme, the white wine, the olives and a hanful of pine nuts. Add some salt and pepper, cover the pan and keep it simmering for about 1 hour and a half, slowly turning the meat occasionally.
During the cooking you add some home made vegetable or chicken stock, or water, to keep it moist.
The rest of the Vermentino you used in the recipe would be a fantastic place to start. Particularly for farmed meat. But if you’re lucky to get your hands on a wild caught rabbit, then you can’t go past a lively Chardonnay. If it has to be red, then a lighter, fruitier style is best for rabbit, like a young Pinot Noir or a straight Grenache. Buon appetito!