As for the food, I vowed never to mention it to my father, who managed once or twice a month to snare a few rabbits in the woods behind the house so we could have our meal of meals, rabbit stew, our only fresh-meat meal. My mother sometimes cobbled together “shipwreck” dinner or jig’s dinner, boiled cabbage and potatoes and salt beef, along with pease pudding made from peas boiled in a cloth bag. Mostly we ate salt cod and potatoes.
Wayne Johnston, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, 24
For Joey Smallwood (first Premier of Newfoundland, narrator of Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams), rabbit stew is the meal of meals – the occasional hint of fresh meat in a diet of sald cod, salt beef and more than a fare share of hunger.
To make this meal of meals, I turned to Kitty Drake and Ned Pratt’s Rabbit Ravioli: Photographs, Recipes & Literary Vignettes of Newfoundland. Along with recipes for Caribou Cabbage Rolls and Bakeapple Sorbet, readers will find short excerpts of writings on Newfoundland, including one J.R. Smallwood’s The Books of Newfoundland Volume II. There are six.
Here’s what you need to know about rabbit: it’s pricey (unless you hunt it yourself), it has lots of little bones, and it dries out very easily. Braising rabbit in beer gives it flavour and keeps it tender.
Below is my current oven, balanced (with great determination) on a smallish, sloped shelf.
If you’d like to go twelve steps further, Drake suggests making a stuffing of the meat for homemade ravioli. If, like me, making pasta makes you want to tear someone else’s hair out, wonton wrappers make a nice substitute.
This version, pictured below, is sans ravioli.
Drake, Kitty and Ned Pratt. Rabbit Ravioli: Photographs, Recipes & Literary Vignettes of Newfoundland. St. John’s: Breakwater, 1994.
Johnston, Wayne. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1999. p.24.