Sunday, January 16, 2011


Having a squeamish French animal rights dilettante hovering in the kitchen baiting me with "pauvre bête" didn't help matters when I opened the waxed paper wrapping and discovered that the pintade still had its long neck and head attached.

A pintade or guinea fowl is, in the words of one recipe writer who offers no elaboration, " a special bird." I had unwittingly received one in a box of fresh farm produce I had had delivered to my urban apartment. Although a free-ranging pintade is a pheasant-like delicacy, I have never in all of the years I've lived in France, bothered to learn what kind of fowl it actually be...If I had known that it were one of those dear and entertaining birds I used to watch as a child around farmhouses I would have excluded it from my order.

High in the pecking order
Guinea fowls are indeed special birds; they can distinguish family members from strangers and are used as barnyard watchdogs, sounding a long and loud alarm call whenever predators or intruders approach, or when anything unusual occurs. They're also lauded because they feed on weed seeds and insects, notably ticks (think Lyme disease) ; they don't scratch up gardens; and they can be trained to come when they are called. Practically pets!

If pressed, a neat way to clean fowl
As I worked on dislodging the pintade's giblets, I was reminded of a tidy way to remove pheasant entrails I used in the days when a French hunter used to drop off game early on Monday mornings during the hunting season. "Pas faisandé!" I remember my husband saying to him to guard against my having to deal with stinky carcasses.

An elderly neighbor showed me how to plume and clean the pheasants, but I was the one to think of using a sack to avoid seeing and smelling the pungent innards that had to be extracted. And no, I didn't put the sack on my head... I covered my hand with a plastic bag before introducing it into the pheasant's cavity so that the entrails would be scooped directly into the sack. As I pulled the sack out, I swiftly twisted it closed and tied a knot. No mess, no fuss.

Vocabulary lesson
Pauvre bête: Poor animal, creature
Une pintade fermière: a free-ranging guinea fowl
Faisander:  to leave game fowl hanging a few days, decomposing, in order to give it a strong and dense odor
Faisan: pheasant
Se faisander: to become high

And if that weren't enough...

You won't find pintade recipes on the website maintained by a guinea fowl breeder who authored the book, Gardening with Guineas.  Jeannette S. Ferguson calls the birds "the gardner's best helpers":

©2011 P.B. Lecron

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