Perhaps you have heard of the latest incident of Politically Incorrectness that has raised the hackles of Italians. It involves a television host who dared reveal the traditional eating of cats by those who didn’t have other meat to fry at carnevale time. By traditional I mean 60 years ago. Lean times in Tuscany. And the carne in carnevale means meat, remember, so these folks were being left out of the party.
(Yes, even Italians tend to kill the messenger, the storyteller. Shame. What will become of us?)
I have personally had dealings with cat-related eating issues. I made the mistake of inviting my Italian neighbors over for gumbo last fall. I didn’t want to make anything with seafood because one of them didn’t eat it. So I thought of rabbit. Rabbit is plentiful in Tuscan markets, so I went to the market and bought one.
Now, you certainly know by now that when Italians speak of food, they don’t hold anything back. By the time I was ready to dip the ladle into the gumbo, we had already had the discussion about rabbits…and cats.
You see, we were informed that the locals sourced their rabbit carefully, otherwise one might go home with something anatomically similar. Like a cat.
Of course, I remembered the old days, when any rabbit you might buy in any market or bucher shop came with an intact, furry head with ears. If you even wondered why, now you know.
Modern folks, especially city folks who are getting more and more divorced from the source of what they eat, don’t like knowing that they’re eating rabbit or any other “cute” animal. So, the practice that assured them they were getting rabbit went away so more rabbit could be sold. But then it was much easier and more profitable to sell cat, I suppose, and Italy has more private entrepreneurs than you can ever imagine…
Returning to the original story, the television host was fired for revealing a tradition popular 60 years ago. Odd, isn’t it?
A Little Footnote: Roof Tile Rabbits
During the war years one ate what one could find—hunger being the mother of culinary invention and all. There’s this thing, you see, called Roof Tile Rabbits that is famous in song.