* Warning- this blog details the preparation of rabbit meat, including some graphic shots of the chopping up phase. If you have a weak stomach have someone else read the post and tell you about it and that way you can avoid the pictures and graphic descriptions.
Tonight when I walked into kitchen one of my favorite nuns, Christine, was elbow deep in a bowl of bloody meat chunks and rabbit entrails. I will be honest with you- it was a disgusting scene. This was nothing, however, compared to the actual body of the skinned rabbit lying on the table… it still had teeth…so gross. While some people might just leave the kitchen I immediately went to fetch my camera. I think they were a bit horrified that I wanted pictures of this and said in a desperate voice, “Suzanna, there is so much blood, you do not want photo!” Well, as it turns out, I did want photos because I am determined to document my years here in photos so one day I can show my kids and really gross them out with images of a dead rabbit I helped chop up.
As it turns out it was Christine’s 33rd birthday today so the meat was part of the celebration. I think it would have been nice for the other nuns to do the dirty work since it was her birthday but the concept of the birthday girl lounging around being pampered all day doesn’t seem to exist here- at least not in Catholic convents. I was even offered a chance to assist in the process and they appeared rather surprised when I grabbed a knife in dove right into the job. It was vaguely reminiscent of high school anatomy when we dissected a cat but this time I was expected to eat the end product. While I tried to ignore the lingering memory of that poor cat sprawled out on my table, once it was in my head all I could think about was the dissected cat and the pungent smell of formaldehyde that would seep into your clothes and burn your nose all day. At this point the trip down memory lane was putting me at risk for vomiting on Christine’s birthday meat so I washed the blood off my hands, took a few more pictures, and headed back to my room to spray some air freshener up my nose.
I returned an hour later to observe the rest of the process from a safe distance. They had a small stove set up to cook the meat on and Felix, one of the night guards, had the prestigious job of supervising the meat cooking and coating the meat in some sauce concoction every few seconds. Here is the final product:
At this point I snapped a few pictures and was then dismissed from the kitchen (I think I was in the way) to help set the table. I was setting the table and gulping down mass quantities of water when the head nun called me into the common room to pray. I was blissfully unaware at this moment in time that when she said, “ join us to pray” she was really saying, “please join us for a marathon prayer session where you will be required to stand with your eyes shut for 45 minutes while testing both your sense of balance and the strength of your bladder.” After the prayer circle we sat down to eat just as the electricity went out. We ended up eating by candlelight, which was very nice as it provided an intimate ambiance to the night. When I was selecting my meat they informed me that the sauce they coated it in was spicy so I tried a bite of the head nun’s first before committing to a whole stick of meat and it was so spicy I could barely swallow. Based on my reaction they offered me a stick of meat that had been prepared with a different sauce. I apologized and said I was a baby about hot and spicy things and sister Donatille told me, “It’s ok baby, we always make a few special ones for the people with weak tongues- people like you.”
I was doing ok eating my meat, although I didn’t totally love the consistency and texture, but since there was no light to actually see the meat I threw it on some bread and pretended it was an undercooked hamburger. Sight deprivation turns out to be the key to eating food you can still imagine as the cute animal you visited last week. This worked pretty well until the lights came back on and my illusion of hamburger meat was absolutely shattered. To tell the truth, once I could use all five sense to evaluate the meat on my plate it was much harder to choke it down. I ate a few bites, swallowed a few whole without chewing, hide one especially nasty piece in my napkin (yes I was caught but I smoothly explained I had dropped it on the floor) and finally left a few pieces on the plate. I simply didn’t have it in me to finish and I assure you if I had any type of gag reflex the night might have been ruined by a projectile vomiting incident as a result of me forcing myself to swallow chunks of slimy rabbit meat whole.
Once the main meal was over I was recovered enough to present Christine with the chocolate-creme Oreos I bought for the nuns in Kigali (these woman go crazy for chocolate) and her birthday card. I also wrapped up a Beanie Baby for her and ironically it was a cute little green bunny rabbit. I made her promise not to hack her new bunny into pieces and cook it for dinner. She graciously agreed to keep him safe and we named him Hoppy. After the meal I started on my usual post dinner chores of washing the placemats and drying dishes. I am now safely under my mosquito net watching The Rescuers Down Under on my computer and getting ready for bed.
As a conclusion to the rabbit saga here are some things I am looking forward to this weekend:
•Today is my day off! I love my students but Friday could not have come fast enough this week!
•Tonight is my second adult education class and when I saw one of the primary school teachers on the road yesterday she said that she was looking forward to class. It is bizarre to have women who are 30 years older than me call me “teacher” but it is truly a blessing to have such wonderfully dedicated adult students.
• I am attending a baby naming ceremony on Sunday that should be a great experience- he will only be 8 days old! 🙂
• And now for the most exciting news of all- I have purchased a small plastic bowling set for us to play with at night… I have a feeling this will revolutionize our evening entertainment! I am predicting it might be an even bigger hit with the nuns than UNO although it is hard to say for sure because they really love UNO!