Why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’

As benchmarks go, I have one coming up.  My blog will surpass 100,000 hits sometime today or early this evening.  That’s not like a seventieth birthday or turning twenty-one, and it will not be chiseled on some rock for passersby to see on the road to Samarkand.  It’s a blog thing, don’t you know?

Whether many or most people have read entire posts or have glanced and surfed on, I have no way of knowing.  What I do know is that one of my posts, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ March 30, 2011, has continued to rack up over 1,000 hits a week for several months.  If I am to be known by one piece of writing in my life, this is the composition I desire that to be.

I want it remembered because with beauty comes violence, and, as human beings, we attend that performance in reverence — or at least we should.

‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ was written in one, long sitting, but I had thought about the content and structure for a long time.  To be quick about it, I had wanted to write about Thomas Keller, the chef of the French Laundry in California, not because of his fine cuisine, but because of his full experience with preparing a rabbit dish, from slaughter to the pan.  He vowed not to waste that rabbit he had personally slaughtered.  This young man in learning the skills of his trade, to become one the world’s most heralded chefs, had insight of  a Socrates in the backyard of a restaurant.  He would not waste the life he had taken.

I nearly always seek humor in writing about nature and our relationship to our good earth.  That’s hard to find these days in the midst of waste, tar pit oil and needless consumerism, but it is there to alleviate the anguish of what we see and read about.  My post, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ however, had no humor, no comedy and it just, frankly, turned out that way.

The humor in ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ is not evident, but it is there.  When I started to raise a beautiful herd of Angus cattle in 2007, I was going to be an impersonal cattleman — no affection or emotion for the heifers and steers, all business, no silliness or attachment.  Well, was I ever caught asleep.  In caretaking the Angus, I was shot twenty-seven times by cupid; for in each of the twenty-seven cows I raised, I found myself seeing personality, behavior patterns and sociability I never thought existed.  I walked among the creatures, just to be with them.  Go figure, I fell in love with a herd of cloven-hoofed beasts!  Impersonal?  Heavens no!  I took care of those cattle like they were my own offspring.  Funny, but also quite serious.

So, when I loaded the twenty-seven Angus in the stock trailer to take them to Carter Cattle Company for transport to Perryton, Texas, the cleanest feedlot in the state, a part of me went with them, and I knew that their rearing to that point had been the best around.  Whatever table they came to, I wanted people sustained with a healthy product and a sense that the great chain of being continue with a reverence for the gift of life on their plate — like Keller’s little bunnies.  Don’t waste the cattle I tended with love, and don’t waste your own life in boundless folly, for that does not honor the life in front of you — or on your plate.

With beauty comes violence, and, as human beings, we should attend that performance in reverence.  That is why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’


Notes, corrections and additions:

Thomas Keller, The Importance of Rabbits,‘ The French Laundry Cookbook, New York: Artisan, 1999.  See page 205 for the essay, recipe on page 207.

The fox is beautiful to behold, but it will take its cut in the barnyard and in the field — beauty and violence.


Filed under Life in Balance

16 responses to “Why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’

  1. Jack, I’ve often noted the title of the “fox, hare and chef” post, but never read it. Now I have. The first thing that came to mind was my response when I visited my first grocery store after returning from Liberia. I looked around the meat department and said, “Good grief. This whole country is covered in plastic!” It’s a perfect metaphor for our disconnection from the food that sustains us.

    I first learned the lessons with chickens, and my grandmother. She could dispatch a chicken with as much efficiency as anyone in the world, but she never did so without a word to the chicken first, acknowledging the hard reality: she had fed the chicken, and now the chicken would feed us.

    And I’m laughing myself, as I read. I’m in Iowa, Louisiana right now, a little town east of Lake Charles. Every March they have a Rabbit Festival, and that’s why I’m here – a friend who grew up eating rabbit wanted to come. Later, we’ll pop over to the cookoff and eat rabbit a dozen different ways. I’ve never had rabbit, but I’ll certainly think of my meal differently because of your post.

    • Oh, the plastic is on everything. Your grandmother (and mine) taught us much — what a statement. That’s a coincidence, Linda, for you to be at a Rabbit Festival! Think the word in French is, ‘lapine?’ Maybe a little easier to eat when called by that. Maybe not. That disconnect ever-present.

  2. Your writing does make me glad – you say important things, not said enough, in your very well-rounded way. Congratulations on this huge number, Jack, and glad to hear ’tis this post that racks up the most!

    “Don’t waste the cattle I tended with love, and don’t waste your own life in boundless folly, for that does not honor the life in front of you — or on your plate.” — this quote of yours is gonna go up in front of me – to remind and to share out.


  3. Beautiful Jack and so true. Being aware of where our food comes from and how it came to us is a very important. The sweetest carrots I ever ate were the ones I grew as a child from seed. I can still remember the care I gave them and the feelings I had when it was time to pluck them from the earth. I was happy that I could finally taste them but sad that they would have to die so that I could do so. But, understanding that we could leave some so they could give us more seeds turned the sadness into hope.

  4. Some of those hits were mine for sure. It’s a story that will always remain with me and should be required reading for any non-vegetarian. I have brought it up as I watch so-called animal lovers toss coldcuts and uneaten meat into the garbage as if those creatures with a face don’t matter. I make my partner censor my PETA newsletters and have since stopped looking at them, as every one of them has pictures of livestock (and every other type of animal) abuse.

    It’s good to hear the post generated so many hits. Let’s hope it changed some attitudes. Not considering the animal who died for you is on my list of Top Ten Sins. Every piece of flesh sold in every supermarket should come with a graphic explanatory label. Maybe a prayer, people like prayers. Because few ranchers have the compassion that you do.

  5. I really liked that post when I read it too. I’m very glad that so many others have and are reading it too! Great post!

  6. Congratulations on achieving a major milestone that will continue to build. With each click, your wise voice and considerable experience enlighten all who read your posts. The beauty of it all is, you’re willing to do the hard work required – with much sacrifice – in order to sit on the porch and feel the oneness with nature. You are a treasure, Jack, and I thank you for how you’ve inspired me to work a little harder.

  7. It was not only wonderful then, it was, again, this morning, along with this new post. You have a sensitivity that just shines in your writing and it’s one of my reasons for being one of your many fans!

  8. Rubia

    Congratulations, Jack! And I wish you many more years of fine blogging! To 1,000,000 and beyond! Your writing has always been a pleasure and inspiration. I am proud to be a Sage to Meadow subscriber!

    • Rubia: Thank you! I want to write more posts and have a few like the ‘Fox, hare and chef.’ Thank you for subscribing. I know — and I wish so much that other people knew — what a fine, fine writer you are and having lived in the country all your life, you have much and deep to share to my blog, my readers, and if you ever get a nature blog for yourself, your own readers and appreciative audience that will respect your words and views about flowers, weather and the common good. Thanks for your kind words.

  9. A good accomplishment Jack in those 100,000 hits. And that your piece “the fox, the hare, and the chef” continues to get 1000 hits a week makes me wonder. Where do they all come from?

    • Bill, I do not know for sure. I can see where my hits are coming from, by country, but they don’t comment. My WordPress dashboard includes a list of the hits per post. Just don’t know.

  10. Congratulations on achieving 100,000 hits, your blog is filled with humor, history, information, photos, and insight to many other bloggers, that is just a small list what your blog offers. Great Job!

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