WARNING: Vegetarians and sensitive readers proceed with caution...
We are entering an unexplored and quite daunting new realm as a family. It's all about using what there is and being resourceful in enjoying the abundance of what this piece of land has to offer in order to sustain us.
Last year when our circumstances here drastically changed, and pinching pennies was no longer a game but a necessity, we were kindly given a generous amount of game meat, hunted by my brother in law. I became an expert in roasting venison, making the most delicious venison pies, stews and even scrumptious soup from the bones. We seldom eat meat but enjoy it when we do, so I carefully stretched the venison into occasional meals that lasted us a full six months, hardly buying any other meat, chicken or fish during this time.
Well, last month we ate our very last venison roast. This end of the game, combined with memories of a New Year's meal I ate in France more than twenty years ago, and along with an inspiring recipe book of mine, "Prickly Pears and Pomegranates" by Bernadette Le Roux and Marianne Palmer, led me to looking at the local guinea fowl population with a new eye. I dropped a few tongue in cheek hints. The men in my life didn't need much persuasion to put their fancy bows to affective use since only ever successfully hunting straw bales with them.
So, imagine my surprise and feeling of dread when, wearing his self-made imitation-bush jacket and a huge grin, my son proudly walked into the kitchen with his spotted prize two nights ago.
Considering that I have only bought one or two chickens this whole year, and after I had recovered from my shock, my resourceful Elastic Mom Mode soon kicked in and out came all the books. I researched how to deal with game birds while they dealt with our bird out of my sight, but not my mind. Bear in mind that roasting a chicken is a squeamish ordeal for me. When I was presented with the cleaned up bird, I was very impressed with a job well done. I instructed my gracious husband to rub it in vinegar and I popped it in the fridge to deal with later.
Such an auspicious meal needed something special, so I splashed out and bought mushrooms on my trip to town. I had everything else needed to follow the Guinea Fowl Pot Pie recipe from my delectable book.
Wonderful aromas wafted through the house today as the fowl casseroled slowly in red wine, with bacon, mushrooms, onion and herbs. Later, this deboned fragrant stew was wrapped in parcels of my cream cheese pastry and baked in the oven. A glass of muscadel, some red cabbage cooked with apples, onion and raisins and mounds of pumpkin with cinnamon and honey were the perfect accompaniment to the most delicious pies, "restaurant quality", according to my delighted hunting-gathering man.
I amaze myself at my appreciation of this experience. Simple farm living is changing me. Something that would have offended me in the past has become something of value.
Lessons I have learned:
* One guinea fowl makes ten small portion-sized pies, enough for two family meals and then two more guinea fowl corn soup meals. How's that for stretching food.
* Game is organic and far healthier than most of the meat and chicken available at our local supermarket or butcher.
* My son took pride in helping to provide the food for the table, and bravely dealt with the unpleasant parts of preparing the bird. This experience has grown him a little more.
* My brave husband who did the worst of the fowl cleaning, and was rather suspicious of how the meat would taste, found it surprisingly delicious.
*My daughter who announced that she was never going to eat it and is not even fond of meat, really enjoyed her pie.
* Freshly caught guinea fowl, odourless and clean, was pleasant to cook as opposed to cling-wrapped, fatty, dripping chicken that has me gagging as I pop it into the roasting pan.
* Guinea fowl is not chicken. It does not look like chicken nor taste like chicken. It is just as delicious.
* Hunting for sport is appalling, hunting to provide meat for your family is helpful.
* As Elastic Mom stretching my resources, I appreciate a gourmet French country meal that only cost me the price of a pack of rather expensive mushrooms.
* I thought I would feel guilty cooking and eating the guinea fowl, but instead, I felt thankful.