Category Archives: Selling cats for rabbits
Okay, so I’ve roughed out a provisional draft of alternate lyrics to “My Favorite Things” for our own Jackie of Finland to record, per our contractually-binding exchange in this comment thread. I’m also in negotiations to get the two surviving Seidlitz Brothers to dub some backing vocals, though according to their agent, Shlomo’s voice box is pretty much shot from three packs of Chesterfields a day since the McKinley administration. No matter: that’s why God made Pro Tools and the electrolarynx.
I’m kind of going back and forth on the first verse here, as it lacks the 100% concrete historicity that the other verses have. Though maybe I could fix that by nailing down concrete references to back it all up.
Phials of acid in ex-lovers’ faces
Naked wild women in desolate places
Negroes with blue gums who kill when they bite
This is a load of my favorite shite
Mince pies for breakfast, and luncheon, and dinner
Corpses injected to make their eyes glimmer
Med school students defiling the dead
This sort of thing tends to fuck with my head
When the dog brings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I feel truly bad
Jackie: Far be it from me to impinge on your creative process, but I was thinking this would work best Lento assai and in a minor key.
Yours truly is a contributer to this week’s installment of Public Radio International’s This American Life. I’ll be the guy talking about the non-existent pizzeria. If you miss the broadcast, you can get caught up with the podcast.
New York Daily Tribune, July 27, 1859. Love that “did not discover themselves to her for some time.” Filthy perving Orangemen. Anyway, the habitat of the Wild Woman extended north to Canada, and cats were a part of her diet. I wonder how she felt about mince pie.
Daily Alaska Dispatch, August 4, 1900. By “patties” the author here means pâtés, as the next paragraph will show. It’s inferable that he is unaware that French people had been in the regular habit of eating horseflesh since the Revolution (when it was both a good source of protein and an anti-aristocratic gesture).
Charlotte Daily, December 20, 1898. Our sapient correspondent Jackie of Finland has pointed out that vender gato como liebre (“selling cats for rabbits”) is a Spanish expression meaning “to pass off a cheap imitation as the genuine article.” I’m trying to figure out whether whether the expression had any currency in English, or whether these apparent cognates are just accidental. Tangentially, what kind of Italian name is “Shamber”? Nicely, it does evoke “shambles,” which originally meant “slaughterhouse.”
The (London) Observer, August 5, 1833. I found the original British news item whence this prior post on the sub rosa marketing of cat meat was freely plagiarized. Handily, it provides a name for the entrepreneur, which reduces the possibility that this is just a 19th-century urban myth. (The original text also helps account for the odd use of italics in the pirated version: “les pauvres malheureux” ["the unhappy poor"] is transcribed as “poor” but retains its original italics.) The fact that the captive cats were eating one another puts me in mind of the early indie cineaste Dwain Esper and his demented exploitation masterpiece Maniac (1934), which features a like-minded hustler who breeds cats for their fur. The operation runs on a perpetual-motion principle, whereby he feeds rats to cats, then feeds the rats on the skinned bodies of the cats. “I figured out that rats breed faster than cats,” he explains to a visitor. “And catskin makes good fur. Cats eat rats. And, rats eat raw meat. That is, they eat the carcasses of the cats. So, the cats eat the rats, the rats eat the cats, and I get the skins.” “A rats eating cat?” boggles his interlocuter. “Why, that is news!” According to Kino’s DVD release of the film, the cat ranch was a real facility that Esper integrated into his “plot.” Which would pretty much have to be the case, given the budgets he was working with.
National Intelligencer, September 24, 1833. The faithful will recall that in a prior post we discussed the rumor, popularized by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers, that felis catus was standard ingredient of commercially-produced mince pie. Here’s an incident that lends color to the charge.
I think the reference to gout has to do with the notion that it was a disease of gourmands and epicures, whose educated palates would not be fooled. Thanks to Melynda for pointing out that the reference is not to gout (painful crystals of uric acid in one’s joints) but gout (French for “taste”), and that the “victims” were not human consumers of cat meat but butchered tom cats whose gamy flavor failed to pass as bunny flesh. Gosh, do I ever have mince on my anthropocentric face.
New York Times, December 24, 1871. A Manhattan pie-maker straddles the shift between artisanal and industrial production, and sheds some light on the mysteries of mince along the way.