Stop Feeding Songbirds (If You’re Easily Frightened)

“Why experts say you should immediately stop filling birdfeeders”. So blares a leading headline on our state’s top “news” site, Al.com. Never mind that there is only one expert cited, and she lives in Minnesota. At any rate, here’s what Dr. Victoria Hall has to say.

“Unfortunately, we have a lot of gaps in knowledge about the role of songbirds in HPAI outbreaks. We have some data from previous outbreaks around the world, but this outbreak is very different. The 2022 outbreak is unique because of the very high levels of transmission of the currently circulating H5N1 virus strain in wildlife.”

Hall

Let me translate:

“…we have a lot of gaps in knowledge about the role of songbirds in HPAI outbreaks.” Trans–We don’t know.

“With minimal viral surveillance being done with songbirds, it is hard to measure the risk of transmission from songbirds to other birds.” Trans–We don’t have enough data to prove anything, but I am an expert, so I don’t need any.

Let me step in to the void with what is actually known. Here’s useful information from the CDC, cited near the end of the article:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 27 million cases of avian influenza have been reported in backyard and commercial poultry as of April 8th. Another 637 cases have been reported in wild birds in 31 states, including Alabama. The Alabama case was reported Feb. 23 in an American wigeon found in Limestone County.

AL.com

Divide 637 by 27 million, and you have it–0.0000236% of documented bird flu cases in the US have been found in wild birds. I personally am going to roll the dice and keep my bird feeders full, and my chickens fed. Though I will end with a witty fake headline:

All cases of bird flu reported in Alabama were in the wild bird population.

Of course that number is only one, which occurred almost two two months ago, and was a couple of counties away from here. I just like to live dangerously.

Turkey Schnitzel with Shoestring Potatoes and Fried Egg

A Stack

Twice a week I am dispatched into a land that is riddled with followers of the VLF–the Virus Liberation Front. Mask-less marauders are legion, but I am an expert at evasion, and they rarely come within ten feet of me. If one tries to, I give them the dreaded contemptuous stare of disapproval.

Let’s have a celebration, a classic German dish, to honor the Fauci ouchie shots. I’ll be ready for the booster in a few months. Schnitzel time!

Ingredients

Two Turkey breast cutlets

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

1 Egg

Pork fat and olive oil, for frying

Schnitzel-izing the Turkey breast is actually the middle thing you want to do. Cook these first.

One Large Tater, Precious

The tater is peeled and sliced with a mandolin–not the musical kind. I have to have some pork fat to cook mine in. As with all taters, don’t forget the salt. This is the base layer the schnitzel rests on.

The last stage is to fry two eggs for the top layer, and these are from our birds. I always fry eggs in olive oil, though that is looked down upon by some experts. Fine, experts, just don’t come to our house looking for some eggs. Make them as runny as you like as well.

The VLF reminds me of an actual group, the ALF, or Animal Liberation Front. I can only look at their website a couple of times a year, because I am still too young to die from a terminal fit of laughing. ALF is a group of militant Vegans, whose goal is to liberate all the livestock on Earth. Their home page formally featured an attractive young woman wearing a Ninja suit, holding a pink nosed bunny that she had no doubt liberated from some tyrant’s rabbit hutch.

They are also the topic of a magnificent short story, “Carnal Knowledge,” where a group of them attempt to liberate an entire farm full of Turkeys. The narrator, who is something of a dipstick, gets trampled by an whole building of gobblers, and finds himself face down in a pile of Turkey shit. Naturally, all the liberated Turkeys end up being run over by a semi.

Irony rules. Let’s just hope the VLF don’t get their hands on a vial of Smallpox virus.

Turkey and Vegetable Soup Gumbo

Healthy Gumbo? Mon Dieu!

I’m a little late with my Thanksgiving leftover recipe, but any fowl will do for this recipe, or even frozen leftover turkey. It’s a simpler version of a standard gumbo, as it uses already prepared soup as the base for the gumbo.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Bacon Fat or other Oil

1 tablespoon Flour

1 pint Vegetable Soup (preferably home made, and frozen is fine)

1 cup chopped cooked Turkey or Chicken (maybe Guinea Fowl, anyone? P-trak, p-trak)

Poultry Stock

Extra Frozen Okra

Salt and Pepper

Quick and dirty here. The only thing that requires a good deal of attention is the roux, which should be a dark brown roux, so start with the oil/fat flour combo, and stir constantly. Once that is to the as you like it stage, add the soup and the turkey. Cook until it begins to simmer, and gauge how much stock you want, or how soupy you want your Gumbo to be. The extra okra is optional, but it adds some color to my home made veg soup.

Serve over rice, or if you’re really hungry, red beans and rice. Coastal dwellers regularly add shrimp or oysters to their gumbos. The p-trak sound is the incredibly loud call of the crazed and wild guinea fowl. I want a few, as they are predator proof and require zero food. Alas, they will drive your neighbors bonkers. Maybe I should get a dozen.

Deconstructed Turkey

Easter Turkey?

Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. In this case, it was Easter Turkey, instead of Easter Ham. I can’t say that I have any reason to complain about the result.

The backstory: I wasn’t about to drive to the BHAM to buy a quality ham, so we fished out a 20+ pound turkey from our freezer, a Christmas gift from MJ’s employer. It was time to go all Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on this bird.

Like Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill, I needed Japanese steel for this job. There are five cuts necessary for this dish, and I pulled out MJ’s massive Japanese cleaver. Cutting off the wing tips, and throwing them into the stock pot, are the two easy ones. Then the thighs/legs come off in one piece each. Finally, the back is removed, and it joins the wing tips in the stock pot. I forgot that the giblets get boiled. Those are for giblet gravy.

Brine the Turkey parts overnight in a standard salty brine, and make the stock and a large skillet full of cornbread to use as the base for the dressing. My cornbread has no flour in it, because I use the fine ground McEwen and Sons organic cornmeal. Other wise, it’s a typical cornbread. The next day, it’s time to reconstruct the bird.

Ready for the Oven

The bird rests on a big pile of Cornbread Dressing, which consists of a regular, crumbled cornbread, egg, turkey stock, cooked celery and onion dressing, with two important additions. A. D. Livingston says include a cup of croutons for some crunch, and my addition is a good hand full of reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms, which are chopped and added after soaking, along with some of the porcini water, to add a little mushroom flavor to the dressing.

Put the bird back together in a manner resembling how it looked before it was dismembered. We also baste ours regularly with melted butter while it cooks, in a 375 degree F oven. That dark brown color is a good indictor of the fowl being cooked through. That big French roasting pan is quite an improvement over the gigantic cast iron skillet we formerly used. All the meaty part of a twenty pound turkey in a ten pound skillet will strain the sturdiest oven rack.

So thanks to Julia and Jacques for forever ending the stuffing of a Turkey cavity. These brined birds stay juicy and tender, and the legs can be removed early, if they cook faster than the breast does. Put them back in to re-warm just before the cooking is finished, and you once again have a reconstructed Deconstructed Turkey.

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