The Connection. The rabbits in Watership Down tell the story of a legendary rabbit who stole the King’s Lettuce, which was kept under lock and key day and night. The rabbit hatched a crazily elaborate scheme and risked his hide for these lettuces—but all you have to do is go buy some ingredients and throw them in a bowl for a very similar experience.
The King’s Lettuce Salad
1 bunch red kale, julienned
2 handfuls of baby arugula
1 cup French green lentils
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 pint roasted cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fresh black pepper and sea salt
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, toss them with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and a generous splash of olive oil, and roast with the cut-sides up at 375 degrees for 40–45 min. until the edges have caramelized.
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small sauce pan, dissolve the bouillon cube, and add the lentils. Reduce heat and simmer 20–25 min. until tender, then drain.
Toss together the kale, arugula, walnuts, and warm lentils (you may want to bruise the kale—that is, handle it roughly with some tongs for a couple minutes—to soften it first). Whisk together the lemon, olive oil, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper, and dress to taste. Add the tomatoes and Parmesan shavings, reserving some for garnish, and toss gently.
Enjoy warm or at room temperature, and in a wrap if you object to salads.
“Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it.”
Who should read it. Everyone, but especially ten-year-olds, lovers of epics, and parents to children who aren’t quite ready to tackle 476 pages on their own.
Why I liked it. It’s a terrific adventure story, and it doesn’t matter a whit that the characters are rabbits; they’re utterly endearing and unforgettable. The language and plot are simple, but nothing of the human (or in this case, leporine) experience is lost. Strong themes of hope, determination, friendship, and even loss and death come through loud and unchecked. This is a rare delight amidst today’s world of bubblegum and bubblewrapped Children’s and Young Adult Lit, though I should say that I liked the book more at twenty-five than I did at ten.
Also, the whole journey takes place over only a couple of acres. Children see stories like this everywhere, but most of us forget how until a book like this comes along.
- This novel is heavily influenced by classical epics, especially The Odyssey. It’s interesting to note similarities in style, plot, and characters.
- It can also be read as an allegory for World War II. Richard Adams was a veteran of the war, and may have based some parts of the book on his experience.