Going to our local pub is a risky business. Not because of the food (the homemade lasagne with garlicky garlic bread never fails to please), nor because of the beer (the weekly real ale is as pleasing as the lasagne, especially when you’re 2 pints in). No, the risk is that by the time you leave you’ve agreed to something that you had no intention of agreeing to when you left the house that evening. Such as buying a Welsh collie puppy. Or, as on this occasion, buying a brace of pheasants from the local shoot.
I reached the grand old age of 38 without ever having plucked a bird. Dave popped his bird plucking cherry back in the dark days before I moved up the Banceithin. His stories of duck feather hell did nothing to ease my nerves as the pheasant plucking day drew near. Thankfully The Shooting Times came to the rescue with an online video of a nameless faceless man demonstrating how to skin a pheasant. The voiceover promised that it would be as easy as “removing an overcoat”. Knives sharpened, cats at the ready to catch feathers, dog at the ready to catch whatever may be going, time to grab the pheasant by the neck and get up close and personal with dinner. But not before cracking open a bottle of red and supping a fortifying glass of wine.
WARNING: If you’re of a sensitive disposition, click away now!
Step 1: remove the wings. One crunch, two crunch, and off they came. If I had a posh party to go to I could knock up a fetching fascinator. Sadly, the social calendar is rather devoid of parties, posh or otherwise, so into the bits bag they went.
Step 2; remove the tail feathers. Don’t tug too hard or the bottom comes with them. Whoopsie, too late, Dave’s bird was missing a chunk of bottom already! Step 3: snip the tendons and remove the legs. Tug, tug, tug, it’s not coming off!
Tug, tug, tug, hmmm, the first blood. There wasn’t any on the video. This is where it all became a bit Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was so intent on following every detail of the instructions that I forgot my Llangybi Youth Club survival weekend training from the 1980’s and completely failed to re-enact the “pull the tendons and see the leg move” comedy moment. Funnily enough, this did not feature in the Shooting Times video.
Step 4: remove the head and crop. I’ve spared you the visual. The gag reflex kicked in when my headless pheasant revealed a bulging crop, so crammed full of seeds pushing at the membrane that at first I thought it was the bird’s brain! Reason soon kicked in and I realised that not only was the grotesque bulge too big for a pea brained bird like the pheasant, but the brain was also unlikely to be sited at the base of the neck. My courage let me down at this point though and I made Dave remove the crop. No way was I going to touch it – yuk yuk yuk. Little did I know that the yuk was going to get yukkier.
Step 5: slit the skin and peel it off “like an overcoat”. Overcoat?! Not any overcoat I’ve ever come across. How about, “like taking off an overcoat while wearing a straitjacket underneath”. Sticky feathers, sticky fingers, sticky skin. Shot hole in the breast – yikes! Blood clots – double yikes! Seamless transition from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Generation Game and back to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there we have it, a fleshy body.
Step 6: there’s no gentle way of putting this - slit her open, shove your hand in and pull out the guts. YUK! Alien baby alert! Eyes closed, throw the whole mess in the general direction of the bits bag, deep breath, finger through the anus, run to the sink and scrub the hands until they’re raw. Good God, the casserole had better be damn tasty.
Step 6: take a gulp of wine.
Step 7: joint the bird, survey the bloody mess in your kitchen, and drink a toast to your local butcher.