Tomorrow’s the last day of the pheasant and partridge season in England, Scotland and Wales – in Ulster they finish today.
Imagine then my surprise at finding birds in butchers around London at near identical prices to the start of the season. Maybe it’s a London issue, but profiteering nonetheless.
Big commercial shoots will be selling off birds for near on pennies. Some shoot managers have even been caught burying their bags - not to give them a decent burial, but because nobody want the birds at any price.
If that doesn’t break the myth that huntin’ and shootin’ is for toffs, nothing will. Three cheers for the man with the gun and a dog going out to bring home food for the table.
We all need to turn a shilling or two in what we do, but current price tickets on game birds bought for a pittance is downright profiteering. Genuine livestock farmers – not industrialists - must feel rightly sick with the poor returns many of them are getting even with feed wheat now down by 25% on last year’s harvest.
Seeing the photograph in today’s Daily Telegraph of Belted Galloway beef cattle grazing on snowy fields was a cheering sight – one of Britain’s many great beef breeds, now probably more popular in Europe that over here where you rarely hear the breed mentioned.
Remember, if I can bring out the anarchist in my readers, the law states, as I understand, that if a car hits a flying pheasant and you’re tucked in behind, there’s nothing preventing you from taking the other man’s road kill. Just don’t try it with deer.
Remember all I wrote about the start of the season come September (partridge) and October (pheasant) – try and buy birds in the feather and enjoy ageing them to your taste before plucking. They’ll be better and less expensive too – and you;ll get the hang of plucking and drawing the birds in no time.
Now we’ve venison for a short while longer and then it’s back to the farmyard for supplies. Lent has me avoiding meat as best I can – I’ll be in Paris for the spectacular Salon International d’Agricole (SIA). It’ll be the first Friday in Lent and Brasserie Lipp’s dish of the day on a Friday, unchanged for years, is Tête de Veau. Wild horses, etc – you know the expression.
Not even fish only on Friday will stop me from breaking all my promises to self for that feast – and anyway there’s still nearly 40 days to redeem myself from an act of pure Blue Collar Gastronomy.
Whilst with Blue Collar Gastronomy, if any readers can make it across to Paris any time in the nine days from February 25 – March 4, SIA is Europe’s finest food fair by a country mile. It takes place at the Porte de Versailles (the terminus of the longest street in Paris – Rue Vaugirard which starts kilometres away with small beginnings near the French Senate besides the beautiful and elegant Jardins de Luxembourg). Take your passport to the main gate at Porte de Versailles and they’ll probably welcome you with open arms and let you in for free – just don’t say I told you.
If you’re there Sunday, the wonderful Marché de Convention takes place in the morning just one stop on the metro before Porte de Versailles – walk the rest of the way and build your appetite for the tastings that await. Anyway, the metro will be crowded to bursting with rowdy, ruddy faced country folks and their families all noisily excited by the spectacle to come.
‘Profitez!’ as the French generously say - but not like those game dealers I told you about.
NB – Google ‘SIA 2012 Paris’ (SIA not SIAL) and see for yourself how the French support their farmers and celebrate their food. I’ll be reporting from there about old favorites and new discoveries for those who can’t make the trip.