I’m not a pheasant plucker
January 4, 2007
I noticed in the Guardian Guide this week that there’s going to be a new series called ‘Road Kill Cafe’ on the box this year. Well, VBD has got in there first, with our very own road-kill exclusive.
This poor wee she-pheasant was found dead, but still warm, on a dark country lane in the Scottish borders, near the cottage we were staying over the new year. Her pheasant-mate, who’d been keeping a lonely vigil in the trees near where she lay, flew off dejectedly when we stopped the car.
We got out to inspect the body in the light of the headlights. Maths chick was dubious, borderline horrified, by my insistence on slinging the battered corpse in the car and taking her home for the pot.
We hung her by the feet in a barn next to the cottage, high enough off the ground to prevent any passing foxes from taking a nibble. There was a brief debate about whether a bird needs plucking and gutting before or after being hung. We decided to leave her intact for a respectful period of mourning. I went to the barn each day to check if the rigor mortis had worn off, and to give her a quick snifter, to make sure she wasn’t honking too badly.
I finally got round to plucking her this afternoon, 6 days later. In his ‘Meat Book’ Hugh Furry-Wellingtonboot makes plucking and drawing a bird sound like a doddle. Well, it ain’t. It’s like having a pillow fight with a cold, bloody mess of skin, flesh and innards. I started off in the kitchen, but a mushroom cloud of tiny down-feathers soon forced me, sneezing violently, out into the back yard to finish the job.
I soon discovered a large ball of undigested grass in the creature’s gullet. Not only had it failed to learn the Green Cross code as a youngster, it’d obviously never been taught to chew it’s food properly either. It must have had the manners of a pheasant. Ha ha.
The skin was ripped in several places from its road accident, and its guts were spilling out of a tear between the breast and the leg. 15 minutes of ham-fisted plucking soon rendered the bird unrecognisable, and I gave up on the idea of roasting a nice, whole pheasant for tea.
In the end, I hacked off the breast and legs, removed the skin and have just bunged it in a pot with white wine, garlic, thyme and onion. I’m going to leave it to stew slowly until Maths chick staggers home from her first day back at school.
The whole experience has taught me I am neither a pheasant plucker, nor a pheasant plucker’s son, and I’m only plucking pheasants because I’m now ‘working from home’ and have got bugger all else to do.