Lee Thigpen’s eyes were wide with delight as he peered into a tin container brimming with the food he’s been itching for: rabbit.
Thigpen, 84, loves rabbit. He used to shoot them in the now-gone fields near his East Austin home. His wife, a chef, used to fry them up. But it’s been a long time and he’s been talking about it for months.
“He asks about it every day and I don’t know how to cook it,” his niece Joyce Thigpen said.
But last week, Thigpen got a big surprise when several Meals on Wheels volunteers brought him his favorite dish, prepared by the owner of Hoover’s Cooking restaurant on Manor Road.
In September, Bob Cole and Eric Raines from KOKE-FM asked Meals on Wheels if they could deliver some food to veterans. The nonprofit, which brings meals to elderly and disabled people, connected the men with several clients, said spokesman Thad Rosenfeld.
Thigpen and his 89-year old wife have been Meals on Wheels clients since 2006. He is an Army veteran and worked for 37 years for Southern Union gas company.
Thigpen’s wit and humor quickly made an made an impression on Cole and Raines. When the men dropped off his food, Thigpen threw out a challenge.
If you really liked me, he said, you’d bring me rabbit.
“I said ‘Fine, I’ll bring you rabbit,’” Cole said.
Cole asked his friend Hoover Alexander for help and it just so happened that the restaurateur was experimenting with rabbit recipes. He was happy to help because he admires the work Meals on Wheels does, he said.
“I know a big part of that need is right here in my community, right here in East Austin, where I grew up,” he said.
On Thursday, Cole, Raines and Alexander delivered a large container of rabbit prepared with salt, pepper, garlic and onions. Alexander also threw in some yams, string beans and dessert.
Thigpen, who uses a walker, sat in a big chair as the meal was presented to him.
“Ooohh,” he said, as his eyes grew large.
Thigpen decided to eat his meal after his guests left. His niece, however, took a small taste.
“It tastes like chicken,” Joyce said.
Thigpen jokingly tried to stop her from eating all of his food.
“Will you call the police for me?” Thigpen said to Alexander.
“Sure, what shall I tell them?” Alexander says.
“She’s eating my rabbit.”
Joyce stopped at one bite. The police were not called. And Thigpen was touched that his new friends had gone to so much trouble for him.