There’s an old joke that goes something like this:
Man: Waiter, I’m told this restaurant serves everything.
Waiter: That’s right sir! If we don’t have what you want, your meal is free!
Man: All right then, bring me an elephant ear on a bun!
Waiter: Right away, sir.
Waiter (a few minutes later): I’m sorry sir, we do not have elephant ear on a bun. You can have anything else you want for free.
Man: I knew it. I knew you wouldn’t serve elephant ears.
Waiter: We have plenty of elephant ears, but I must apologize that we’re out of buns.
Elephant Stew is basically this joke in recipe form. I can find variants of this recipe in cookbooks going back to the 1970s, and it seems to be a standby in old 1960s Farmer’s Almanacs. It even makes an appearance in the New York Times in 1978, accompanied by an equally unfunny elephant joke. The gist of the recipe is always the same, with some preposterous cooking directions about simmering a full elephant for multiple weeks and a couple of rabbits in the ingredient list, noted as “optional”. The rabbits are optional, you see, because not everyone likes hare in their stew. Ba-dum-bum.
- Salt and pepper elephant to taste. Simmer over a slow fire for four weeks.
- This will serve 3,468 people. If more are expected, add one rabbit, but do this only if necessary, because most people do not like to find a hare in their stew.