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Old Blog

Grow. Gather. Hunt. Cook.

Life is death is life

A meat pie. Looks pretty delicious doesn't it? Trust me it was. But there's a background story. There is always a background story. Most times we never get to hear it, but read on to hear this pie's background story.  

We got a message from a friend asking if we'd be interested in taking a rooster off their hands. It's been so long since I've cooked with chicken, in my mind I was immediately setting a menu of gastronomic possibilities. I was set right by Kate who kindly reminded me that we had a clucky hen (which the kids affectionally  named 'Peacock'). Why don't we keep the cock and possibly get some eggs fertilised? It fits in with a closed system approach that we're striving for. It could possibly  mean that we'd no longer have to buy new chooks, they'd just make their own. It might just work, we'll leave it up to nature and I'll report on it in the future.

When I arrived to pick up the rooster (which I've now named 'Cogburn' - any fan of The Duke will understand the reference) I noticed two pair of pigeon flying in the large hen house. I had to enquire about them, just on the off chance they were up for grabs, and it's a good thing I did. More unwanted animals, and unlike Cogburn, these guys where destined for the pot! The reality is that I had nowhere to keep the animals other than in a pie.

In the old days pigeon was a common meat, as it was easy to keep them in the backyard and cheap to keep. It's funny how us humans can happily eat certain foods when times are tough but not eat them when times/finances are good. Pigeons sit alongside rabbits as 'poor man's' meat. In my mind it's still all just meat, and with the added bonus of this species being considered a feral pest. We do have native pigeon in Australia, these four birds are the introduced species.

The kids where all excited of the concept of pigeon pie, I think more than anything it's the name of the pie that was exciting. In our house the rules are, that if you want to eat it you have to know how it's made. The whole process.

So after breakfast we all ventured out to the front yard to say hello and goodbye to the birds. The girls loved the soft feathers and the sounds they made, but when it came time to kill them they knew what needed to happen. I was rather proud of them, they saw my dispatch, a second and it was done, a quick twist of the neck, the delicate neck broken cleanly in my hands, the bird shakes in its death rattle, then it's lifeless. Its now transformed from animal to food.

That's what happens to every bird you eat, it's the shitty inevitability, the downside is that most of us don't witness the process and thus become disgusted when we're confronted with the reality. But it happens.

Take away and supermarket chicken meat isn't made from birds that have died of old age. The reality is that they live for 10 weeks in pretty shitty conditions then thousands of them are transported by truck (by pretty dodgy methods in most cases) then they're all killed and processed and destined for the deep fryer of society's treasured takeaway venues, where the reality of the carnivore process is hidden from the public.

After the birds were all dispatched (killed quickly) we set about the task of plucking, and the kids all helped, admittedly some more so than others.

Maya, Kate's eldest, came out with a ripper of a line that I have to share. She said, "I bet no one would be able to tell what kind of bird this is now that the feathers have been plucked". Such a childish comment really but me being me, I looked a little deeper into it and it reminded me that as adults we tend to be prejudiced against different types of foods, especially the animals we eat.

But look at the meat, cooked and processed ready for pie filling. What do we think of it now? I ask myself these questions, because I was once prejudiced myself. Ten years ago I would not have considered eating a feral bird. Now I think differently.

Add the basics of a good ragu, a low N' slow cook for 3 hours and you end up with a pretty amazing meat.

It's all got to do with how you were brought up and how open minded you are about life. When I was a kid I never ate pigeon, I never considered anything other than the Aussie basics of chicken, beef, lamb and pork. As an adult, they're all the meats I eat the least of now. I'm more of an opportunistic eater now. Cue pigeons.

So we get sustenance from killing the pigeons and cooking and eating them, and the rooster will give us new life when he mounts the lady hens and make a' de babies. It's a pretty obvious system. I'm glad my kids understand it. They sure understood the flavour side of things.