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Don't tell the kids...NYT food section today

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I found this article very offensive, in tone and content. Not cute, not funny, not of gastronomic interest, just awful. Save me from Brooklyn wannabe hipster bunny murderers.

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  1. While the title (and a few phrases) were a bit flip, I didn't find the article to be offensive. Rather, I found it interesting in that it dispelled some of my assumptions (such as rabbit never having been a major source of meat in the US--for some reason, I'd always thought it WAS fairly common). At the farmer's market I shopped at when I lived in PA, one stand always had poultry and rabbits (farm-raised). I AM an omnivore who has never killed an animal for food, so I do have some grudging respect for those who can do what I have someone else do for me.

    I am curious why you felt that way (genuinely curious--this is NOT a criticism!)

    5 Replies
    1. re: nofunlatte

      I really wonder how many of the participants would be willing to slaughter a bigger animal in order to get closer to the source of the meat they eat. I grew up with a father who hunted and saw him dress deer etc, and the major part of our meat came from local farms, so I am not of the meat comes in packages in the supermarket mindset. My response to this is largely an emotional one. When I posted I had seen the picture on the front page of the section in passing - with that flip title - and had read the online version of the article which emphasized the killing over the gastronomic (the print article went further into cooking). Yes killing is a necessary evil if people are to eat meat of any kind, I just do not think that popularizing it as a putatively educational exercise is a good idea.

      1. re: buttertart

        Some people feel an ethical imperative to avoid meat unless they're willing to kill the animal themselves. IMO it's a reaction to the "packages in the supermarket mindset" you commented on. I understand that you don't feel that imperative, but I have a hard time understanding your problem with those who do.

        Do you find it offensive that these people are being taught how to slaughter animals, that the animals at issue are rabbits, or that the process is receiving publicity?

        Teaching people to slaughter small livestock is nothing new. The fact that it's being done in a Brooklyn parking lot instead of at the county extension office in a rural town shouldn't really make a difference.

        As far as rabbits vs. larger animals, the simple fact is that city dwellers don't have much access to cattle. And since a beef carcass provides dozens or even hundreds of meals, and giant chest freezers are not common fixtures in small urban apartments, a steer is typically divided among many people. If money changes hands for that division, you've suddenly got the USDA involved, and the slaughter has to happen at a licensed facility. So that's not really an option.

        But what if it were a different animal of the same size? Would you find it equally offensive if people were being taught how to slaughter chickens? Some people consider rabbits to be pets, and find eating them tantamount to eating the family dog. But that's a purely social construct. My family raised rabbits when I was growing up, and there was never any question that their ultimate destination was the dinner table.

        The fact that people are trying to connect with their food is, IMO, legitimate news. If you're offended by tone of the article, though, I can kind of see where you're coming from. The "hip-hop cuisine" and "don't tell the kids" lines are a little too flip for my taste. As somebody who's pretty far removed from effete urban attitudes, I can't really gauge whether the article was written for its potential shock value. But to the extent it was, I don't think that's appropriate. On the other hand, I don't think the tone needs to be completely somber, either.

        I've taught a number of friends to slaughter and butcher their livestock, and believe the experience is always educational and sometimes transformative. The process is always unpleasant, and I'd generally rather let someone else do it for me, but it's not a bad thing to know that you can kill your own meat if you choose to.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          It was the flippant tone primarily. I also find it unlikely that too many of the participants will go on to keeping rabbits for meat. If that were the case, I could see it being of value to the participants. I grew up in a smallish city that is in the middle of farm country and while I never participated in slaughter, I certainly was acquainted with some of the animals my family went on to eat. I also can't imagine any of the farmers/abbatoir workers/butchers I knew remotely entertaining the thought of giving lessons in killing animals to urbanites.

          1. re: buttertart

            the younger end of the food culture is so unbelievably earnest - and polarized between vegetarians and those who "meat" with theirr friends. Traditional foodways, including animal butchering have always been rather realistic and not emotionally based. As has been remarked in other contexts, food and eating seem to be increasingly delinked from survival and normal family life.

            Id like to think that there was an element of realism (developing a new food resource and new skills) in the butchering training,, but the article itself (the pictures and writing and the uneasiness about actually being close to killing animals) made it difficult not to be creeped out. by the undertaking.

        2. re: buttertart

          buttertart--even though I don't share your views on this, thank you for clarifying why you felt the way you did. I do understand emotional reactions and I'd probably gasp if this were kittens (even though, intellectually, I understand that this is a culturally based reaction). In one of your other responses, you did mention the "pet" thing--my colleague has had several rescue rabbits, so I understand this, too. Regardless, while I don't view this story the same way you do, I am glad that you took the time to answer my question.

      2. I found it helpful. I've long felt that rabbits are the most promising meat for people to rear and slaughter themselves; ecologically, rabbits go directly from leaf vegetables to animal protein. Rabbit is delicious; rabbit liver is the finest of livers (finer than calf liver). All around, it's something to promote for people who are interested in taking more control of their consumption of animal flesh but are not going the vegetarian route.

        1. You mean you don't find articles about killing bunnies and eating cats to be simply hilarious???

          Incredible world, ain't it?

          1. I wouldn't even read the article once I saw the beautiful white bunny on the front page. I've never liked eating rabbit since I always equated it to eating a pet (plus the Fatal Attraction movie scene grossed me out). Now, I definitely will refuse to eat it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ellenost

              Thank you. There are pet issues involved with me (pet by proxy, friends' and relatives' not my own) as well, that's why I said it was an emotional respone.

            2. Stories like this always seem to surface around Easter. I think Salon's picture captures my feelings on the subject. http://www.salon.com/food/feature/201...
              I am more likely to eat animals with less pet potential myself. Call me unchowish I really don't care but I won't be serving up the Easter Bunny.

              1. I'll serve up the Easter Bunny in a heartbeat. . . or lack of one. . . . if I could just find a nice fresh one. Bunnies are no more or less cute than ducks or pigeons or baby sheep or pretty much everything meat except for maybe sea cucumbers which are NOT cute. . .then again, maybe to some people. . . . Seriously, go to the open markets in France and in Spain and there's bunnys and hares hanging everywhere.

                For too many people eatting meat is easy, with no animal involvement--go to the store, grab a package and come home and cook. Having to take the life of the animal before you braise it in the mustard sauce puts it all in perspective. Lets take all the people they described as being in the class. Many were described as wanting to raise rabbits for food---isn't it better they really learn how they have to kill an animal while supervised by someone who knows how to do it and spare the animal injury than they think "oh this will be so easy," and blow it and cause an animal major pain and stress.

                I saw the article and wondered if there was any chance of classes in my city. Its nearly impossible to buy good fresh rabbit and now I know why. But at the price they were describing, raising rabbits for meat and selling them to restaurants would be a fine way for my retired mil to make up the losses in her retirement fund that have her living on about 12g a year.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jenn

                  Agreed. Rabbit is just much more common outside the US and it makes no sense.

                  When a friend of mine was a little girl, her nonna was petting a rabbit on the nonna's lap on Easter morning. It was part of dinner.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    Yup, my mom and her sisters used to push their rabbits around in doll carriages. And then eat them for dinner. They didn't have a lot of money and you didn't turn your nose up at good food.

                  2. re: jenn

                    personally, I think sea cucumbers are very cute! :-)

                    but I have and would eat them. Octopus is another story....love it when I see one underwater, hate having them served to me. Has nothing to do with their pet potential, and everything to do with their personalities. (and by the way, I've had rabbits as pets. Personally, I think they make a much better dinner than they do a pet. Clearly, one's view as to what is a pet is as much culturally and personally based as one's view as to who or what is cute.).

                    As a general response: my father's family relied heavily on rabbits as a protein source during the depression. In an urban area. I presume, as someone else points out, that grandma and grandpa taught them how to kill and butcher the rabbit since I am sure they couldn't afford a class even had one existed. Either that, or they learned the hard way how to do it right, which couldn't have been good for the bunny.

                    Unlike some others who have replied I don't know any reason why rabbits couldn't be raised on a deck or back porch in NYC, or anywhere else you could put a cage. The bunny I had as a pet (we were keeping it over the summer for my child's class) lived in a cage. Of course, it might not be the best of living situations for the bunny to be caged up, but if how the bunny is raised is part of what makes it offensive, I can only presume that folks who feel that way would never eat supermarket-purchased chicken either.

                    Some people find eating meat offensive. I can understand that. I don't get making a judgement call based on the type of meat involved or whether one is personally involved, however.

                  3. To bring some levity to this discussion, some may wish to read this, one of the funnier essays by the meanest comic writer ever, Joe Queenan.
                    http://www.devilbunnies.org/text/bunn...

                    1. I find there's a logical disconnect between wanting to be aware of where your food comes from and going to kill a rabbit once for meat. Well, congratulations, you've slaughtered an animal and reaped the benefits—once—and now you can eat meat happily knowing that you've morally bested the unwashed masses who buy theirs in steaks and strips and have never had to procure it from the source.

                      In reality, though, you'll never continue the practice and will just go back to buying from a supermarket or butcher. Chances are, you only signed up for the program as a novelty and have absolutely no way of raising rabbits of your own considering you live in New York City. What's more, you paid $100 for the privilege, which would indicate that you have the means to pay for quality meat in the first place.

                      The people who would benefit from this seminar are the people who cannot afford the seminar and cannot afford quality meat, forced to buy it packaged and processed; somewhat predictably, the people towards whom the seminar isn't marketed.

                      So, yes, I found it offensive, because slaughtering animals for food isn't just an urban novelty to be brought up at dinner parties or done "for the experience"—it's a way of life for a lot of producers.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: stet

                        Thank you for saying what I was trying to get across.

                        1. re: stet

                          i dont think its about a feeling of moral superiority at all. we do many things "for the experience" and in general those things shape us and expand us. I have hiked himalayan trails, does that make me a sherpa? no. does it make me a mountaineer? no. does it make me better than someone who has not? no. but it did change the way i view mountains, mountaineers, sherpas, and most importantly myself. and thus it has value.

                          1. re: thew

                            Did any of them involve killing animals? I'm not morally against animals for meat or killing animals for meat, but yes, I am against killing animals "for the experience."

                            1. re: stet

                              these rabbits were being killed for the meat, yes.

                              1. re: thew

                                I wonder about the humane aspect of letting totally untrained people do this... I'm guessing one gets better the more slaughtering one does-- more confident and less apt to mess up and cause unnecessary suffering. So, no, I still don't think there is a good rationale for doing this sort of thing "for the experience" and this is totally unlike hiking the Himalayas. For the average person a more significant (and socially beneficial/ morally conscious) scenario would involve changing slaughterhouse practices into something consumers would be comfortable seeing, as opposed to the sort of scary, closed-door plants we currently have. I'm not sure the answer to large-scale and inhumane animal slaughtering by companies is small scale and possibly inhumane animal slaughtering by curious individuals.

                              2. re: stet

                                I don't think people do it to "enjoy" the experience, as if this were the movie, Hostel or Fear Factor. But I think it's important for people to know how an animal goes from farm to table. They may be repulsed or they'll walk away with a greater appreciation for meat. I find either alternative better than viewing this as it were taboo.

                            2. re: stet

                              >>"In reality, though, you'll never continue the practice and will just go back to buying from a supermarket or butcher. Chances are, you only signed up for the program as a novelty and have absolutely no way of raising rabbits of your own considering you live in New York City."<<

                              Really?

                              Per the article, of the nine students taking the seminar, "One was a woman hoping to start a farm in the Bronx. Another was considering a move to family land in Montana. ... Sharleen Johnson, who rode a bus in from Boston, wanted to raise livestock in her backyard. " The plans of the remaining six students weren't discussed, but one can assume that they weren't there just to snuff a bunny for thrills.

                              The seminar was about raising rabbits for meat. Yes, that includes killing them, but I can tell you from personal experience that that's the easiest part. And so what if somebody takes the seminar and decides against becoming a rabbit farmer? If they come away with an appreciation for what it takes to be a small livestock producer and a stronger aversion to wasting meat, that's still a good thing.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                i haven't read the article, but i don't understand why folks would think there couldn't possibly be 9 or 10 people in the wee little town of nyc who would take a class on humane rabbit slaughtering-- and take it for legitimate reasons (as per the reasons, imo reasonable and legitimate, you cite)?!? the idea that someone would take a slaughter class as a "novelty"-- (what, they were looking for something to do that weekend and it was either slaughter a rabbit or the beeswax candle class?) is the attitude that i find more/extremely offensive. if you're going to do any urban farming of livestock, slaughter goes along with it. the rabbit you've kept in you back yard and fed daily does not kill and quarter itself, after rolling around skinless in olive oil mustard, after all. . .

                            3. I just read the article and I have to say that I didn't really have a problem with it.

                              I have eaten rabbit my entire life, except for a short time in my teens when I found out that the bunnies that we played with in my grandmothers back yard were that ones that ended up on the dinner table and grandma was the one that put them there. I got over that because they were just so darn tasty after they had been marinated in wine and spices and then braised and served with the rabbit version of dirty rice.

                              Twenty or thirty years ago, we would have looked to our older relatives to teach us to kill and butcher our dinner, but that is no longer the case. I guess this is the new way of learning skills that are being lost in urban and suburban settings. I think that as people try to get closer to their food, it only makes sense that some start to raise meat animals. A couple years ago, the news was all about chickens and raising them for eggs. To me, this is a natural progression.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: NE_Elaine

                                NE Elaine and alanbarnes, Well Put!!!!!!!

                                I think NE Elaine has hit the nail on the head---years back I would have learned how to slaughter a rabbit or chicken from my parents or at least my grandparents. But that doesn't happen nowadays so that the only alternative is taking a class OR experimentation. And for me, the classroom is a far better choice than experimenting.

                              2. Urbanites paying $100 to learn how to raise and "slaughter" rabbits is rather comical, when you think about it, and the story's hook exploits this. But it's an informative piece on a worthwhile topic. What's the problem?

                                Kids can be sentimental about the sources of what they eat, and American popular culture encourages this. I knew one who loved veal until he was told that it's baby cow. Maybe not the happiest choice of words, but he got over it.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: armagnac

                                  I'm not clear on why everyone is misinterpreting people's opposition to this article/event as based on sentimentality. From the posts here, the majority seem more concerned with whether this is an appropriate way to bring people a better understanding of how their food is produced. Unless you're buying a farm or planning on raising animals for meat, (which admittedly a few in the article were) I don't see any reason for an untrained person to slaughter an animal just for the experience. Whether it's a bunny or a calf or a cow is irrelevant to me. Not to mention, "exercises" like this isolate the killing part of meat production. These people come in and kill a random rabbit. They don't raise it. So the amount of understanding you're getting seems doubtful at best. Send people to a rabbit farm for a week or three, have them actually farm the animals, then slaughter one, then tell me about it. I just don't really see the point.

                                  1. re: Procrastibaker

                                    Nor do I. Hence my aversion to the content and tone of the article. Thanksvery much for your comments.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      The more I think about it, the more I agree with you regarding the tone of the article. The author placed a disproportionate emphasis on slaughter, which in a well-run class whould be a minor part of the curriculum.

                                      No doubt that emphasis caused the article to get more attention than it would have received if it were a dispassionate look at the resurgence of urban rabbit farming. (Just look at this discussion.) Focusing on the only aspect of the course with any shock value, and coupling it with a subtext of "look at what these crazy foodies are doing now" is cheap journalism.

                                      On the other hand, I have no objection to the article's overall content. It's not a bad thing that people are interested in having hutches in their back yards or on their fire escapes, and if urbanites are taking up rabbit husbandry, that's certainly news. Better writing would have made the article more informative and less polarizing.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        While I do not eat rabbit as a personal choice, I have no problem with meat eating in general or other people eating or raising rabbits for food. I found the cutesy flippant title and the tone of the major part of of the article offensive. Cheap journalism indeed.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          You do realize that the article titles are largely written by editors, not article authors? Article titles are famously designed by editors to titillate and sensationalize - even at the Gray Lady Herself. I view titles like ads. Editors often chop context out, too, if there is a last minute need for space.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            I do realize a lot of things about print media, thank you, this among them. In my opinion it was a bad editorial decision to run this article the way it was run. An article titled "Resurgence in urban rabbit farming" would have been much less offensive on many levels.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              wondering if you saw the online version with all the pictures of cute white bunnies. Whoever made these decisions it was distasteful.

                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                Oh yes I did. And agree.