Harvey The Hero Dog
When I was growing up, Pheasant Under Glass was considered the highest of elegant dining. I have no idea what Pheasant Under Glass was, but whenever anyone spoke of the highest cuisine, it was mentioned. So, on my latest trip to visit my dear friends in Michigan, you can imagine I was pretty impressed to be offered some pheasant to take home. "It's a lot like chicken," our hosts assured me, "just be careful when you chew it, as there may be bird shot in the meat."
Undaunted, when I got home, I opened one of the packages and went looking on the interwebs for recipes I might be able to make. The first night, I made a risotto with mushrooms, roast asparagus, and pheasant. It was good but not great - that one needs some work and I'd rather wait and tell you about it when it's wonderful than now when it's just sort of "meh." What went wrong? Well, it wasn't the pheasant, which was tender, moist, and mild - it was the rest of the recipe. First, I'd use bacon fat in lieu of the butter next time, and lemon juice instead of wine for the astringent part - both would have offered more flavor and enhanced the delicate meat. I'd also use brown rather than button mushrooms for a more woodsy flavor. Stand by for that recipe one of these days.
The next day, I used the rest of the package to make a salad for lunch, slicing the cold, sautéed breasts as the protein in a kitchen-sink salad. Delish! And, by the way, there was no bird shot in this particular package, although I reminded My Beloved before each meal to chew with caution.
And what was the source of all this elegant poultry? It was Harvey, the Wonder Dog. Harvey is our friends' shiny black lab, a complete couch potato (that's him in his favorite chair) until the guns come out. When Ray puts on his hunting clothes and pulls out the shotguns, Harvey becomes a whole other dog, eager and excited and rarin' to go. The day the guys went out to hunt, Harvey flushed up at least 60 pheasants for the men to shoot (they came home with about 40 - not bad!). Harvey caught four or five of them himself! The pheasant who thinks it will avoid the guns by running along the ground doesn't understand that Harvey will simply chase it down, give it a quick shake to kill it instantly, and bring it back to place it gently in Ray's hand. Harvey was the hero of the day.
Pip, the rat terrier, stayed home snuggled in his blanket.
Meanwhile, the ladies had a lovely wedding shower for my Fairy Goddaughter that was planned jointly by her mother and her sister. We had lunch and oohed and aahed over her shower gifts, played a few silly games, and had a fine time catching up with her Michigan friends.
On my last day in Michigan, I was blessed with a late spring snow, the kind of quiet snow that falls with no wind whatsoever, so it sticks beautifully to every tree and surface in a silent blanket of white. The maple tree outside the window has raised red buds, ready at any moment to open with maple flowers, so the snow made a lovely contrast against the swelling buds. While I can't say I miss winter in the midwest, I was thrilled by the beauty of the snowfall.
People in California are always a little surprised that I love Michigan so much. Little do they know that the landscape is like home to me, one of the few places in my ever-changing Navy life that was constant, and the friends there are lifelong friends, literally met in the playpen and kept all these years later. One reads a good deal about how tough times are in Michigan right now - and they are - but the midwestern ethic will pull them through and there will always be peaceful snows to gladden the heart and big, goofy black dogs to bring pheasants to the table.