A menu built around Hasenpfeffer, thanks to the renowned James Beard. Hungry?
I was starting this post a while back when I was interrupted (though not rudely) by a sudden pronouncement from Raymond that made me switch gears. It was after I had been speculating on the springtime blackfly situation in Queensborough in posts here and here, and thought I was finished with the topic. But then Raymond suddenly announced that he is allergic to blackflies, a potentially problematic situation that I decided merited a post of its own. It’s here.
So now, back to Hasenpfeffer. Where were we?
You might recall from previous posts, like this one, that I have a great fondness for vintage cookbooks. I picked up yet another one at the Gore Street Flea Market in Perth, Ont., as we were driving to the Manse from Montreal recently. It was James Beard’s Menus For Entertaining, a tome from 1965 (the golden midcentury era!) in which Beard, the famous cook and bon vivant, gives menus and recipes for all kinds of luncheons (don’t you just love that word “luncheon”? I think we should all use it more often. Eleanor Roosevelt was always talking about attending or giving luncheons, and what’s good enough for Eleanor – one of my all-time heroes – is most certainly good enough for me) and dinners and breakfasts and late-night meals for guests.
I was happily leafing through it one recent day at the Manse, by turns made hungry by the recipes and reduced to chuckles at the rather old-fashioned tone of it all (not to mention the funky washed-out colour photos of the food, the place settings, and sometimes the rotund Mr. Beard himself clearly enjoying himself amongst all that fine nosh). And suddenly I came upon a menu that pulled me up short. It was built around none other than – Hasenpfeffer.
Hasenpfeffer! Surely that word will transport you, as it did me, straight back to childhood mornings in front of the black-and-white television (in my case, at the Manse), watching Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes episodes. Hasenpfeffer featured in an episode called Shish-KaBugs, in which Bugs’s arch-enemy, Yosemite Sam, is unaccountably working as a cook for some king or other (who has a weird semi-Australian accent) and the king announces that he is tired of the same old same old and wants HASENPFEFFER!!!!
And do you know what Hasenpfeffer is?
It is hare stew. And that of course is how Yosemite Sam finds himself yet again pursuing Bugs Bunny, for dinner purposes. Needless to say, the pursuit is unsuccessful. As always.
I guess it had never really crossed my mind – growing up in a household (the Manse) where even lamb was considered exotic (too exotic for the likes of us) – that in the real world there really was such a thing as Hasenpfeffer, and that real people would actually eat it. But there it was, in black and white (on a perfect-for-the-era harvest-gold background), in James Beard’s book. The Hasenpfeffer menu also includes Cream of Pea Soup, Potato Dumplings, Champagne Kraut and Linzer Torte. If you ask me it all sounds delicious – except for the Hasenpfeffer.
Anyway, for those of you all set to run out and get yourself a hare or two and cook it up in a stew, I am helpfully providing the recipe. You can thank me later.
If your mouth is just watering for hare stew, has James Beard got a recipe for you!
And to make your life better still, here is a fun edited version of Shisk-KaBugs. Go on – relive those memories! All together now: “WHERE’S MY HASENPFEFFER?!?!?”