The man with the gun came calling again.
At first I thought he was just wishing us all a Merry Christmas but then he produced a freshly-shot duck and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in pure terror.
He obviously doesn’t read my blog.
As he handed me the duck (still warm by the way), I was transported back to the greenhouse and I swear I could smell (and taste) the pheasants as we got them ready for the pot only a few weeks ago. When I say we, most of you will know that I should say ‘the women’ as they did most (all) of the dirty work.
I was once again faced with the prospect of plucking and cleaning out a game bird. It’s amazing how quickly you can react when faced with an unpleasant task. ‘Wow’, I said trying not to throw up. ‘I love duck, thank you so much. Come in and have some tea’. All the time my mind was racing. ‘Oh God, I can’t go through all that again. Where am I going to put it?’, I thought as I filled the kettle.
‘Shot him a couple of minutes ago just down by Farranamanagh Lake,’ our friendly gunman said as he took a seat at the kitchen table. ‘Boil him up for a while before you roast him because he’s been feeding in salt water and there may be a “fishy” taste off him’, he warned.
‘I don’t care how “fishy” he tastes’, I thought, ‘at the moment I don’t think I’m going to make it as far as cooking the bloody duck never mind tasting it. Maybe I could just get rid of it when no one is looking? But no I can’t do that; if you shoot game you must eat it, that’s my philosophy.’
I decided to man-up and do what I should have done all those weeks ago with the pheasants. After all, am I not a real man now that I live on a Peninsula in West Cork? Taking a deep breath, I took the duck in both hands and… I blamed my daughter and in-laws for the fact that I would be unable to deal with the duck at that moment.
‘My daughter is a very picky eater and we have my mother- and father-in-law staying with us and I wouldn’t like to put them off their food. You see, I have nowhere that I can pluck and clean out the duck without them being aware of it, and my back is playing up a bit, and I think I’m coming down with flu, and our freezer is full too, so if you would like to keep the duck, and a lovely specimen he is, please do and I hope you enjoy it. You’re very good to think of me, maybe next time when everybody is out and my back is a bit better…?’, I pleaded as my gunman gave me a knowing smile.
‘I’ll clean him out for you no problem’, he said as he poured himself some more tea. ‘Have him back to you later today and you can cook him tomorrow’, he continued as I felt the dizziness subsiding.
So later that day, I was presented with an oven-ready duck and I am not ashamed to say that I felt no less a ‘real man’ when I dropped it in the pot with celery, garlic, onion and bay leaves. I decided to boil the bird for at least ten minutes before finishing it off in the oven. Now, the first thing to note is that a wild duck is a lot smaller than your typical farmyard fowl. There was, I reckoned, just enough meat on our duck to feed one person. While boiling the duck, I noticed a strange smell; it was a sweet cloying odour somewhere between a seashore when the tide has gone out and burning plastic or rubber.
I continued with my plan to boil and roast the bird; when I removed it from the oven the smell seemed to have gotten stronger. I decided to put all this to one side; after all, I love duck and as there wasn’t very much to go around I thought I would make some duck burritos using floury tortillas filled with lettuce and tomatoes. However, as I cut into the breast of the duck the odour of salty stones and seaweed got stronger. I tasted a piece.
Bacon, in floury tortillas filled with lettuce and tomatoes and a dollop of mayo is probably the tastiest suppertime treat you can have with a nice strong cup of tea … and all the windows open letting in lots of fresh West Cork air on a cold December night.
As for the duck, let’s just say that Leo our cat didn’t seem to like it either.