This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
In Kitchen Physic a curious notion about a rabbit-product is recorded which will bear repeating, because it certainly courts further investigation. Dr. Burnett has given the case of an intelligent lady, of about sixty years, who had lost the sight of her right eye by cataract, and was beginning to lose that likewise of her left eye. She consulted several of the most noted specialist eye doctors of Philadelphia, who all pronounced cataract to be present, and agreed that nothing but operative measures could restore her vision. But an old woman told her to apply oil from a rabbit to her eyes, which she did twice a day. After six months her sight had become completely restored, and all signs of cataract had disappeared, so that she could read without glasses, which she had not done for many years. She complained at first of constant dryness in the eyes, which the oil served to relieve, and this was the only particular symptom. The case was recorded in July, 1878, by Dr. Dodge, of Philadelphia. "What the oil from a rabbit may be," adds Dr. Burnett, "I do not know. This is a wonderful case, and perhaps of no great weight.
Let some one with cataract try it." Cataract is not uncommonly associated with eruptive skin affections which have been repressed, such as itching erythematous patches, psora, etc.; insomuch that setting the cutaneous activities to work may prove beneficial in arresting this trouble. Both salt and sugar, when taken in excess, are thought to cause cataract; for which affection, in Russia, the gall of the sturgeon, also that of the partridge, as well as its blood, are used to the eyes.
It was a White Rabbit with pink eyes, which, after taking a watch out of its waistcoat pocket, and looking at it, hurried on, popping down a large rabbit hole under a hedge, and made Alice (in Wonderland), who was burning with curiosity, follow down after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again. And thus was brought about the series of Alice's delightful adventures, told with such exquisite humour, and illustrated with such admirable power (by the pencil of Tenniel.) "Oh, my ears and whiskers! how late it is getting!" said the rabbit." In South Australia rabbits are preserved on a large scale for shipment to Europe. At the Company's factory the rabbits are caught at night, disembowelled on the spot, and carried straightway to the works; here one after another in rapid succession their heads (subsequently boiled down for jelly), and legs are removed, and the skins pulled off in a twinkling; the bodies are slightly salted, and then washed free from blood; tins are already prepared, each of the thirty men employed at this work turning out three or four hundred a day.
These tins, into which the chopped up rabbits have been placed, are tied within a crate, and then lowered into a tank where, being first hermetically sealed, they are boiled for eight hours by steam. At the end of such time the tins are removed, the small hole at the top of each being re-opened, so as to let the steam, which has accumulated during the process of cooking, pass off. Before any air can enter, the hole is again soldered up, and the tins are then left to cool. Rabbits are never eaten in the southern parts of Chili, or on the islands of the Western coast, the Spaniards and Indians having as great a prejudice against their flesh as the Jews to pork. The negroes in the west Indies likewise reject rabbits, while they will eat almost any other kind of animal food; but the inhabitants of many islands in the Greek Archipelago live almost entirely on rabbit's flesh.
Sydney Smith, writing from Foston to Lady Grey, in November, 1821, asked her, "Pray, send me an account of yourself (recently convalescent) whether you have got out of sago, and tapioca, into rabbit, and boiled chicken. God send you may be speedily advanced to a mutton-chop." Again, concerning his friend, Francis Jeffreys, (then being promoted to a judgeship), "his robes, God knows, will cost him but little, (he was a small man); one buck rabbit will clothe him to the heels." Hood, in his whimsical way, has related an experience which he gained when abroad respecting this little rodent animal, and on which he has founded a lesson of manners: -
"But, pray remember this: that the French are so polite, No matter what you eat, and drink, ' whatever is, is right!' So when you're told at dinner-time that some delicious stew Is cat instead of rabbit, you must answer, ' Tant mi-eux".