Rabbit all’ischitana is a ritual as well as a food: the ritual of island families eating rabbit every Sunday for lunch, a tradition handed down from generation to generation. It is an experience to be lived and experienced, to be enjoyed bite by bite, to be savored in all its flavorful varieties. The origin of this dish is ancient and rooted in the territorial peculiarities of the island of Ischia.
In the past, distribution at the rabbit table was matriarchal: the mother or grandmother, the most important woman in the family, distributed the pieces. The way it was cut also had a logic: the smaller front thighs to the children, the back thighs to the patriarch, the most important man in the family, the middle parts to the field workers, and the remaining parts to the women.
The rabbit used to be raised in pits, a slow food presidium, an ancient technique that is now being revived. Even today, in fact, it is still widespread among island families to raise rabbits in different ways.
The presence of rabbits on the island-according to journalist Ciro Cenatiempo-is due to the Spanish, who in their travels along the Mediterranean populated all the islands with rabbits.
Rabbit all’Ischitana Recipes
Rabbit is a dish closely linked to territory in Ischia, which helps tell the story of its extraordinary richness. There are several recipes for the preparation of “Coniglio all’ischitana.” Each version is dictated not by the parochialism of families, but by the orographic conformation and complexity of the island’s climate. Depending on the slope where it is prepared, the recipe changes, in a curious discovery of the peculiarities of the biodiversity of that specific area of the island. There is indeed a ‘climatic and cultural influence on rabbit recipes. Mount Epomeo divides the island in two, causing, for example, a difference of 400 mm of rainfall between the municipality of Ischia and the municipality of Forio. This in the past influenced the method of preserving the ingredients of rabbit preparation. In the wetter Campagnano di Ischia area, tomato preserves and sauces were made, which is why the area’s recipe calls for rabbit seasoned with tomato paste. What was different, however, was what happened on the Forio- Serrara side, where piennolo tomatoes were and still are used, which were able to keep all winter long. The recipe in this case proposes the increased use of spices, a Saracen-influenced feature that affects so many aspects of daily life on the west side of the island.