01 | Life
A little while ago, I bought three New Zealand White rabbits – two does and one buck. Why? Because I aspire to grow and raise most of my own food and be more intimate and in touch with the food I eat. Becoming a mixture of a hunter, gatherer and farmer appeals to me. I want to live much closer and more immersed in nature and my environment. What does it mean to live more in touch with the seasons, day and night and with the food I eat? I want to find out. For now, I live in a suburban neighbourhood in Auckland. Luckily we live on a fantastic property with a beautiful old house and a massive, sheltered, private garden with lots of trees and ferns.
But that will change, as a move to a rural property is intended soon. My gardening skills aren’t great, the soil here is depleted, and I am more interested in raising animals and planting trees than gardening. I also have fond memories of enjoying my mum’s rabbit dishes when I was a kid. Somehow the idea of raising rabbits took hold of me, which I can easily do in the city. I did some research and eventually built a fancy rabbitry and a rabbit tractor. I bought some bunnies and started breeding.
Feeding grass, hay and pellets is easy. Rabbit manure is a great resource for the garden. Yet best of all, to my surprise, is that I really enjoy having the rabbits round. The 5-10 minute task of feeding, watering and moving the rabbits became a cherished part of my daily morning routine.
I sold my first litter of four rabbits. The second litter you can see in the picture. What I did not anticipate about having rabbits is how much I enjoy having them around. They are pretty cute! I like hanging out with them, watching them, being in their presence and giving them some food – they love wine leaves and brown oak leaves as a treat. They have a calm and contended energy.
02 | Death
But they are also food. It has been probably about eight years since I last killed an animal. And I remember that I had a very profound experience after we killed about 12 chooks at a permaculture farm I was helping out on. But killing an animal has not part been part of my life lately.
Even though killing a rabbit is not necessarily comfortable, it is not that hard either. I feel it brings me way closer to what is real. Transitioning an animal from life to death also changes my perspective. I think we are much too afraid and removed from death. Death can be a great teacher. The closer we are to death, the more fully we can live. That is what is being taught in many spiritual paths & traditions and is my experience as well (albeit limited).
One moment there is life and breath; the next moment, it is gone. What happened? From my vantage point in the physical dimension, I cannot answer this. But I know I feel more grounded and present after killing, five rabbits. I feel slowed down and much more aware of my surroundings. Life appears more precious, and I am much more appreciative right now. All thanks to being around death. A most remarkable transition.
03 | Processing
The deed is done. Now another task starts. Owning the entire lifecycle from raising to eating an animal brings home how much work is involved in getting a meal on the table. Breaking down five rabbits is not a major, but it took this unskilled butcher about an hour to do so, including all the portioning for the freezer and cleaning the kitchen.
Getting to know the carcass, understanding where the organs are placed, where to make the cuts etc. adds another level of “intimacy” to the food I eat. It also feels empowering and I appreciate taking more responsibility in feeding myself in a way I can fully endorse.
04 | Cooking
It is 4pm. Time to put a meal together! This one should be quick. I have the liver, kidneys and heart from one rabbit, plus some meat from the saddle that I ate yesterday. Some beetroot on the side, a foraged apple and parsley from the garden. 100% natural & organic, 100% local, 100% seasonal and super nutritional! Ticks my boxes for sure!
I believe we often ask the wrong questions when it comes to food. Talking about food as a medicine needs to happen in the context of the environment you live in. The vast majority of diet and nutritional advice fails to ask a few essential questions.
Like do you know where your food comes from? Do you know the farmer who grew/raised it? Do you know what grows in your area? Do know what is in season right now. Do you grow some of your own produce? Raise and kill your own animals etc.?
To me, the lack of these questions highlights the disconnection to our environment and ultimately ourselves. We are not separate from our environment even if we behave otherwise. Light, temperature and soil dictate what grows where you are at this time of year. Disregarding your immediate environment when it comes to food choices is a very disconnected if not arrogant move. If we eat out of context, we really can’t have much of a relationship with our food either.
05 | Eating
It is served. Rabbit liver, kidney, heart and some loins on a bed of cabbage with some grated beetroot and a tart apple soaked in vinegar, all topped with some olive oil and a good handful of chopped parsley. Besides the beetroot and the olive oil, I have a personal connection with every bit on the plate. The rabbit I raised, the parsley I grew, the I apple foraged. I am happy with that. By no means do I have the same degree of intimacy or relationship with all my meals, but I want to become more and more connected with what I eat. I want to know where my food comes from. I want to know what soil it grew in or how it was raised. I want to have hunted or gathered it or know someone who did. A more intimate relationship is what I want, not only with my food but with most everything in my life. And for me, that means to start close in, right where I live.
Hence this meal tastes so much better. I would give an intimacy score of about 70%. It is very gratifying on both an emotional and a nutritional level. I know where I am heading with my food journey. I will keep it natural, local, seasonal and as intimate as possible. From a circadian point of view, this is what makes sense.
So, do you have a relationship with your food? How intimate are you with what is on your plate? Are you partaking in the growing, raising, processing or cooking of your meal? Where do you see your personal relationship with food headed?