BRJMarch23Flipbook - Flipbook - Page 25
An attorney I know who oversees a central Pennsylvania game
club, tells me that their released birds have a life span of less than
a year in the wild. Mortality is quite high as they are not the most
intelligent of birds, and whether sleeping, nesting, flying or running, they are delicious meat pies for hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons
and skunks. Owls, apparently, seem to be the primary culprit.
Several years ago during my mountain biking period, I was riding on a very large nearby farm and came upon a singular cock
bird standing near some large dried up puddles. Rather than flush,
as any vigilant bird would, this one splayed himself prone in the
slight depression of a puddle, believing he might be hidden. Of
course, this struck me as silly, somewhat pitiful and quite absurd.
Keen intelligence? I don’t think so.
My first experience with the pheasant on the table was in the
early 1960s in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. We were blessed in
those years to have a cook and housekeeper, Louise, a culinary
artist from the rich Piedmont area of North Carolina, where she
grew up surrounded by quail, grouse, and pheasants. Do you think
she knew how to cook wild birds? I can tell you that I have carried
memories of the delicate taste and smell of these roasted birds
with me for sixty years. Such memories do not fade – they age
and season, amplify, and remain with you.
Perhaps to recapture earlier times – think J.F.K. and the preBeatles Roy Orbison and Patsy Cline – or, perhaps just to have
an elaborate seasonal culinary adventure – we recently had a beautiful and elegant pheasant dinner for ten. (Oddly, I was the sole
diner who had eaten pheasant before.) The evening was hosted
by my good friend, Beth, who passed along some essential knowledge and grace to the two young women who cheerfully helped
her with the cooking, place settings and table decorations.
I can tell you that it was just superb and the birds, with wild
rice and sweet potatoes of course, spoke to all of us – spoke of
the fields and creeks and endless fields of corn, of the seasons,
and of the conclusion of yet another meaningful and fabulous
year. Seasonal table fare is a delight, and it is a reverential privilege.
I, for one, may have been lost in a reverie of 1962 with Louise;
the others, including the youngest among us were developing their
own indelible and heirloom memories.
The Chinese Pheasant (Phasianus torquatus)
illustrated from life by T.W. Wood, 1911.