Monday, April 10, 2017

Free Lunch

A northern flicker has been frantically drumming on my (metal) chimney for the past couple of weeks. I hope he finds the love he's looking for soon, because the incredible booming sound it makes inside my house is really interfering with my off-season nap schedule.

It reminds me of the time, growing up on the farm, when a duck came down the chimey into our basement. I remember my mother coming screaming around the corner into the porch to find out what the hell my brother and I were trashing in the basement. The basement was always a little spooky in the first place - mouse traps and spiders and The Dark and such - so we were standing in the porch frozen in terror at what the hell actually WAS trashing the basement. I mean, there was a LOT of noise happening down there. From our perspective, it was obvious that the ankle-grabbing monsters that lived under the stairs had finally come for us, so we were uncharacteristically relieved that Mom was raging mad about it. Those monsters were clearly going to get their asses whooped.

She RAN downstairs, then RAN back upstairs (OHMYGAWD SHOULD WE RUN TOO?!), then RAN back downstairs with a bunch of... towels? Then, after a little while and some colourful language, she returned up the stairs with a half-bald duck wrapped in towels and let it out the front door. (Dammit, we still had stair monsters.)

The furnace seemed way more interesting to me after that. What surprises might come out of it next? (A songbird, once, but that was it. I was hoping for a pet raccoon.)

Mom has a colleague who grew up in China and likes to hear stories about life in Canada. When she told him this story (her version probably involves fewer stair monsters than my version) (and less "creative punctuation" - unlike me, she was an English major) he was duly impressed, but for completely different reasons:

"Wait, wait, wait - you're telling me that a duck invited itself into your home, plucked itself, and offered itself into your be-towelled arms, and you didn't even eat it?"

(I would add to that that the duck also made one helluva mess when it was down there so if it knew my mother at all, it must have had a death wish.)

I guess we just didn't think of it as food. If I had known then what I know now about duck confit, perhaps I would have. This fellow's take on our basement duck has caused me to wonder what other immigrants to Canada must think about our collective habit of going to the grocery store to buy extraordinarily expensive packages of bland meat when there is so much food just traipsing around the neighbourhood that could be had for free. Why, just in Ranchlands we have partridges, rabbits, squirrels (hey, I know someone who says they're delicious, if a bit bony), and even the occasional deer. Not a lot of ducks or geese, but the communities with lakes probably have those. I think of these critters fondly, like community pets, but the budget-conscious among us - perhaps particularly those who didn't grow up with boneless, skinless chicken breasts as their flavour standard - might view them a little less romantically.

A friend of mine who was raising contraband urban chickens once told me he had figured out how farmers decided which chickens to eat first: the ones that are jerks.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder what northern flickers taste like.

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