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« Ear-resistible: el Bulli's deep fried rabbit ears with aromatic herbs | Main | Mmmmm... donuts: beignets, paczki, zeppole, and malasada »

March 14, 2007

I crumb in peace: deep fried rabbit ears and the politics of food


Some of you have seen the reaction to my post on el Bulli's deep fried rabbit ears.  Some of you even responded with insightful commentary of your own -- both for and against the dish -- and with expressions of support via comments and email, for which I'm extremely grateful.   Other comments were veiled threats and personal attacks.

You can imagine, then, how comforting it was to wake up Saturday morning to find my mother in law, our five year old niece, and three year old nephew baking chocolate chip cookies in our kitchen.  They used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking.  These cookies are outrageously good, especially warm from the oven with a glass of cold milk.

But what exactly is the connection between the cookies and milk in this post and the rabbit ears in the previous one?

A photo of severed bunny ears is provocative.  It causes a gut level reaction.  For many, even those who approve of the dish, that reaction is shock, dismay, or maybe even revulsion.

Why is that?  Because you instantly recognize the implications of that photo: rabbits were slaughtered and their ears cut off in order to prepare a dish.  Never mind the fact that the rabbits were raised and butchered for their meat and that the ears were going to be thrown out.  It's gruesome and, whether you choose to acknowledge it, it's the violence that underlies any meat dish.

Now look at that photo of milk and cookies one more time.  What do you see?  Are you outraged or hungry?  I bet only a handful of you see chocolate chips made from cacao beans that might have been harvested in Côte d'Ivoire.  This may seem insignificant, but some allege that cacao cultivation in that country, which supplies approximately forty percent of the world's raw cacao, operates on the back of child slavery.  If you can't bear to think of those children, ponder instead the plight of the cacao farmer whose labour fattens the bottom line of Big Chocolate but does not earn him enough to purchase a single chocolate bar.

You can't bake chocolate chip cookies without eggs and flour, but issues surround those ingredients, too.  A mass-produced battery egg from your local Megamart is likely laid by a de-beaked hen confined to a small cage.  When you think wheat, forget "amber waves of grain" and instead ponder fields planted with genetically modified, corporate-patented über-grass.  It almost happened.

Let's consider milk.  How many hormones are in that glass?  Bovine growth hormone can only be used in the United States, but it is perfectly legal to export milk from hormone-injected cows to countries around the world, including Canada.  Sugar is also a thicket of controversy.  According to the Washington Post, "U.S. sugar policy stands for all that's bad about [America's] political system" for two reasons: first, industry lobbying has led to import restrictions that artificially boost sugar prices for consumers and profits for American producers while extending poverty in developing nations shut out of the world's richest market; secondly, careless sugar cane production is destroying the ecosystem of the Florida Everglades.

This is not a call for activism so much as awareness.  We need to recognize that our food choices, for good and bad, are political choices, and that none of us are virtuous enough to sit in judgment of what others choose to eat.  In other words, there are grounds for outrage in a photo of milk and cookies from the Joy of Cooking, just as there are in a photo of deep fried rabbit ears from el Bulli: 2003-2004.
You just have to care enough to look.


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Very good points, Rob. It's interesting that I showed the rabbit ear post to an Asian friend and he commented "oh, I bet those are a bit like the pig ears I used to eat!" -- a commentary on how we view some meat as "pet" and some meat as "food " in the West.

And remember: pigs are extremely close to humans, you can't even tell an early human fetus from a pig fetus.


Great post. Great points.


Excellent post.

I wish you'd come write for us at TasteTO. :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan)

Great post and very well said. Now I'm going to move to my grandparent's farm and live off what I can grow there for the rest of my life. It's the only way I can eat guilt free!


Honestly, I didn't read the comments to your bunny ear post - I just showed it to my partner and my 12 year old baby brother and we all agreed that we just have to give the recipe a try!

Going back to read the comments and responses now, I'm surprised by the sheer venom in many of them. It never occurred to me to think that eating bunny might be considered somehow worse than eating piggy or moo-cows or Chicken Little.

Your response is dead on. If we're going to make a fuss about the morality of our eating habits, let's try to eat responsibly all-around, not just avoid animals that some people happen to keep as pets. There's a guy near my neighborhood here in Brooklyn, NY who keeps a pet pig, after all.

Incidentally, I am constantly reminding my pet cat, Katya, that she's the emergency food supply. May it never to come to that!


Excellent post!
Outdid every single comment, and as you say, some of when were reassuringly smart, so kudos to you, yet again.


Great post Rob!
Right on the nail!

Makes me feel 'doubley' guilty about some of the recent purchases (chocolate!) I've made, yet proud of my own home sources of meat and eggs... my happy hens and cattle!


I love eating cute animals; they taste the best. Even better if they're baby animals, since they're that much more tender.

So I had no problem with your rabbit ears post. The only reason I wouldn't try it is because it would be too much trouble to try and locate ears.

I'm much more shocked by this post. This chocolate stuff is news to me. Call me crazy, but it turns out child slavery bothers me. Not enough to stop eating chocolate, but maybe enough to feel a little bad about it.

Just kidding. Eating chocolate makes me feel good.


I have a pet rabbit. He's very cute. However, I understand that his kind are often utilized as food. I read the ear post and while my stomach turned a bit as you described removing the fuzz and veins, I pushed onward. While I will probably never eat rabbit, I did learn from your post and I appreciate that you recognize that there are burdens that come with being a carnivore. I'm very sorry that people chose to leave nasty comments.


Lemme see,

Eggs are from a friend's chickens who have ~1/2 acre per bird of roaming space and roost wherever they want to.

Flour is organic, not GMO'd or other evil things and bought from the local co-op.

Sugar...hmmm, didn't know about the everglades. Damn! Have to work on that. (note to self: check with co-op when you pick up flour)

I don't drink milk.

I need to source some bulkish chocolate that isn't killer in price, but I do try to avoid the known slavers. Because seriously, slaving!

Because kids from Côte d'Ivoire are cute too.


btw, while I didn't comment over, but I was amused by the bunny ears article, and the predictable uproar.


Matt @ Abstract Gourmet directed me to your rabbit-ears post, and I've got to say that this is a beautifully articulate and intelligent response to the crazy ranting idiots who responded to the previous post with "OMG DUN KILL THE BUNNIEEEZZ". People still eat rabbit/hare, where do they think the ears go? Is it not better to utilize as much of the animal as possible so that less is wasted and less waste produced?

I'm Korean, and I'd love to see those people try life in Korea, where eating dog is still a traditional dish (not that I could actually consume that myself, but many others do)


Great post. It always amazes me how little really know about where our food comes from. Reading Omnivore's Dilemna you even realize that organic doesn't even mean all that much when it comes to big organic. Makes me grateful to live in Vermont with so many local farmers.


Touché (and then some)!
I know for sure that I'll take the bunny ears over CC cookies anyday mainly due to the cocoa allergy I have and the fact that I'm Chinese (we joke we eat everything), but I digress. ;)
Your posts are always so well written and researched. I'm thankful that you do do what you do as they do open the mind, eyes, awareness and our appetites. Rob, eat another cookie on my behalf. :P


Very well written Rob. If only everyone were as conscientious as you are.

Kristen Morse

THANK YOU for raising awareness about food choices. It's possibly the most powerful (and easy) way to support positive global change on an individual level. Praising food and reveling in its intricacies is fantastic indeed, but we can all step it up a notch and create meals that are just, humane, and symbolize our care and responsibily as global citizens (particulary for those residing in the Global North). Cheers to consciously concocted chocochip cookies..and then some!


good grief! so you deep fried bunny ears because you felt like it. fine. and you wanted to share it. fine. most of us dont give a damn and will probably live with..why can live with it. why don't you just move on with your life? do you have to justify your food fetish by trying to guilt others. sheesh! why do you 'foodies' hate food and feel so guilty about eating..seriously, I'D REALLY REALLY REALLY FUCKING LIKE TO KNOW.

Cheers! and all that..


Mr. Faust,

Your comments maybe much more interesting if you had used english on this blog.

Food is life, life is food....

I think that Rob made some exellent points of how we are hypocritical in respect to criticizing others (finding anyone that is not hypocritical -- is near impossible).

People criticize others (based on limited knowledge) for daring to eat rabbit, while at the same time supporting child slavery through their actions.

First we have someone posting on the other comment section (whitewallybelly or something) DEMANDING that Rob explain his position and/or actions, then we have you criticizing him for doing just that. I guess it is true that you cannot please everyone.

Getting back to the most important aspect of this blog.... food/life. Without people like Rob (past and present) leading us to try new things (foods) we would be a much poorer society.


Mr Faust is right, except his English may not be as correct as your's Craig.
You always fight little Rob's battles for him? '
Are you his foodie disciple ? It is rather sickening to read your comments.

Maybe Craig is Rob? Sounds like it.


Interesting that you have only had one nasty comment. I think it's only fair that on your own blog you have the opportunity to put your own response to the unnecessarily nasty comments left re the rabbit ears.
It seems much easier for people to connect cruelty to something visible (i.e. rabbit ears, intensively farmed meat) than something they can't see, the child picking the cacao beans.
Well done for not bowing down to their bullying.


And maybe WallyWhiteBelly and Mr Faust are the same troll? No, of course I am not Rob.... my style of writing is nowhere similar to Rob's.

Am I a disciple of Rob's.... no, I am focusing on Thai cuisine this year.

Unfortunately some have lost focus that this is a food blog, and Rabbits are food (apparently sometimes crispy food - or at least the ears).

A few are afraid of possibly experimenting with new recipies, which if other's in the past were the same -- we would still be eating raw veggies and fruit, and barbequed Rabbits....

Food is life, life is food...


I find it hysterical that guys like you have to call people trolls
when they call you out on something.

You are a glorified follower, and a whiny one at that.
...." no, I am focusing on Thai cuisine this year ".

You iron your jeans, right ?


I am glad that you are hysterical.

If you were actually sincere in words and in actions (as opposed to being a troll), you would have followed through in your implied threat that you "...will patronize others [food blogs] who are more deserving of my visits.". Since you are still here, your words really mean nothing.


Bravo, Rob. One of the post blog posts I have ever read.


english is not my first language. that has always been my, sue me.


craig, 'rabbit ears' is NOT food. fried rabbit ears is, to be generous, an idea. at it's worst, it is a fetish.

to me, it is wasteful to rear, slaughter and cook rabbit because some people think chicken(farmed rabbit is a bland abomination) isnt fashionable enough or they dont hunt their own rabbits. it is one more species that has been imprisoned in caged hell because we just cant seem to stop having 'interesting' culinary ideas.

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