Almost Christmas; Almost White

Up at the cabin with my side of the family: parents, and the families of two of my three brothers. Dad & mom are headed down to Houston later this week to spend real Christmas with my other brother and his two sons, so we all decided to do an Almost Christmas a week early.

It’s almost white, too. Temp dropped yesterday into the 20s and we got some light presip, so the ground is faintly dusted with a white substance at the moment. That’s good, because the last two years we’ve had rain from warm storms coming through.

One of the gifts I got was the DVD of V for Vendetta. I blogged of it, here, and of which, the comments are the meat of that entry. We watched it yesterday afternoon in the new "media room" addition, cranked the volume way up, and disturbed no one else in the house. I really liked that film, again. It’s so packed with Uncommon dialog that you can probably watch it several times. It’s very interesting how various aspects of justice, fear, symbolism, civil disobedience, destruction, revolution and art are all woven together.

Then came dinner, which was quite different. My brother had gone hunting a few weeks back and bagged six pheasant, dressed and froze ’em, and my mom did them up in a wonderful Basque recipe that’s been in the family for a while. I hadn’t had pheasant since I was a kid, courtesy of my grandfather’s shotgun. I recall a real delicate and tasty dark meat, as are virtually all game birds (white meat is the consequence of a few thousand years of the genetic engineering of chicken and turkey, courtesy of farmers). But it’s also interesting how times have changed. When I was a kid, there was no question — and certainly no attempt to evade the reality of — how some food came to be at our table: whether venison, elk, duck, sage hen, chukar, quail, dove, or any of the other food family members killed with a gun, dressed, bagged, and prepared for the tables.

Last night, there was clear discomfort on the part of a few to discuss the actual mechanics of it. Sure, I suppose it’s not necessarily polite dinner-table conversation, and I certainly understand division of labor, such that nobody really has to concern themselves with how animal flesh gets to the supermarket where it can then be purchased in nice, clean, visually appealing packages. Hooray for that, really. It’s a far cry from having to do it yourself. Just let’s not shy away from the facts of the matter, please. That’s never a good thing and just makes it easier to disregard them, when, for instance, it’s easily forgotten that some people hunt because they love to hunt, and uptight folks in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago are merrily making it more difficult or impossible for them.

Of course, it was particularly difficult to avoid the facts of the matter when I pointed out that everyone needs to bite down carefully, in case a buckshot or two got missed in the cleanup operation. My other brother and my dad were lucky enough to score a single pellet each. Man, did that bring back some memories.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2006 at 10:06


    Hey, cousin…

    Yep, the pheasant was great, and we have leftovers that will be consumed next weekend when we come up here for about two weeks over the holidays.

    For the rest of you, Adam is quite a hunter and fisherman in his own right, a great cook, and that recipe comes originally from his dad — an immigrant to America from the Basque region of Spain. Tony is also a great hunter and unbelievably awesome cook.

    In fact, one of the dinnertime stories I told last night — I think I've told you this, Adam — was when your dad and I (I was maybe 12 or 13) bagged at least a couple of dozen quail in one shot. You probably remember the kitchen window in Nana's river house, that looked out on that field where quail congregated in droves. Tony and I propped up a 4×8 sheet of plywood from Grandpa's shop, weighted it down, and ran a string a hundred feet or so over to the kitchen window and tied it to a wooden spoon. We laid out gain on the ground under the sheet, and the rest is obvious. A few escaped that were on the edge, but we still had a feast.

    Your dad's quail recipe, just like all the others, was fantastic.

  2. Adam CIlonis on December 17, 2006 at 09:47

    I wish I could have been there for that meal-sounds great. You did not mention if you like the bird or not? In regards to the meat, the general rule of thumb is…the breast meat of birds that primarily fly to get around (doves, ducks, geese, etc.) will be dark meat. The opposite is true for "running" birds like chukar, quail and pheasant. Which by no consequence are my favorites. If anyone is looking for great game receipts, get the LL Bean Game and Fish Cookbook-truly great receipts. One of my favorites is "crumbed and fried beaver tail"!

    Good times!

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