I have a new man in my life. He is the butcher of Winchelsea. I bought a few lamb neck fillets from his assistant a couple weeks ago. Today we went back for rabbit and met Jamie.
Uncle John and I talk often about eating rabbit on our drive home from the book mine. In our planning, John would describe a snare to catch one of the many rabbits in our garden–a box tipped up on a stick or something else just as rudimentary.
I had seen rabbits (already dead and skinned) when we had gone to buy the salt-marsh lamb necks.
A week ago I asked my aunt and uncle, “Do you suppose one could walk to Winchelsea?” It is about 3 miles they figured. I saw the footpath in a map yesterday and my little mind started plotting. A dotted line roughly from the the River Rother, near my fishmonger, across the salt-marshes and, I guess, up the hill to the village of Winchelsea. I began to obsess about waking up really enough to walk to Winchelsea and back with a couple bunnies in my bag, then I would have a story to tell Wendy and John. But there was the matter of the late night phone call from E. The even later night correspondence. By the time I woke up at 7, I had convinced myself it would take 5 hours to do the walk. I told John about my unexecuted secret mission at breakfast and it was decided we would go to the butcher to get a fine rabbit, if John did not catch one by lunch.
We had salad for lunch.
The case was nearly empty when we finally arrived to the butcher. “Do you have some rabbits?” I said, fearing I dragged my aunt and uncle on a wild goose chase. The smaller man fetches three rabbits but we only buy two (and we only need one). While he cuts them in three, I am distracted by a man who guides me through a tasting of the finer artisanal cured meats and cheeses Jamie’s shop offers (yes, the butcher’s name is Jamie).
Winchelsea was once a port town and proud of its history as home base to privateers (pirates). Many buildings still sport the Jolly Roger. All of which was unfathomable to me at first because the town is situated on a sort of a big hill or mini-mountain and is completely landlocked. It was explained to me that the sea had once lapped at the base of the cliffs of Winchelsea. The sea had receded leaving marshes and meadows several hundred years ago. Yes, several hundred years ago. Yet the the towns people cling to the seagoing identity. Jamie told me the rabbits ranged and were caught on the marshes below.
The bagged rabbit parts waited patiently while we took an walk through the salt marshes and sheep meadows to Camber Castle. We had roasted rabbit and olives for dinner.