By Daniela D’Angelo
One day during my summer holidays in Sydney, my friend Becky came over to play. I wasn’t normally allowed to have friends over, I had plenty of cousins who lived on my street and they were it. As a first-generation Italian-Australian girl, I had very strict parents, so when my mother let me have a play date, I was elated!
That morning I woke up super early and made my bed, I placed my Barbies in a row and put on my favorite pink T-shirt. I had Coco Pops, I loved Coco Pops — it was “naughty” food. You see, my parents made everything from scratch. Almost everything came out of our garden and we ate from head to tail, so Coco Pops were a rare treat.
My father had just returned from a hunting expedition in Bathurst and placed two freshly skinned rabbits on the kitchen table. As usual, my uncles and aunts were over, milling around, drinking espresso under the grapevine, picking figs, and having loud, animated discussions about when to harvest the olives.
It was midmorning and it was about to get hot. My parents set up the blowup kiddie pool and my mother thought it would be nice for Becky and me to fill it. It was time! I ran down to the bus stop. Becky was early; she was waiting with her luminous pink bicycle. I couldn’t believe she was allowed to catch the bus with her bike.
As we walked back to my house she commented on how big it was and I felt proud, but it didn’t occur to me that I was leading Becky into an alternate Australian universe, one not usually reserved for a blond kid from the eastern suburbs with a satin bow in her hair.
My super-affectionate aunty appeared at the front door with the slightly bloody, stuffed and oiled rabbits on a platter ready to go in the pizza oven for a long, slow roast. I really should have known then, when my aunt pinched both our cheeks and Becky went white, that she was not O.K. with knowing where her food came from.
We walked into the backyard. My parents were in the garage; they had rigged a makeshift wooden beam and were in the process of removing the heads from the carcasses of two small, wild pigs my father had caught, the smell of burned pig hair still lingering.
Becky let out a strange, muffled sound that stopped everyone in their tracks, her bike dropped to the ground and she threw up all over it. As my father hosed Becky’s breakfast from her bike, she broke down crying, saying that she wanted to go home, and I knew there would be no more play dates. I was so sad she didn’t get to try the rabbit.
I think of Becky often and wonder if she maybe became an animal rights activist. I, on the other hand, became a foodie.
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