Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Club Meeting July

Free roosters! In this morning's paper 4-5 month old roosters are on offer for free. My respect for roosters has increased since reading Birdology, our book club's selection for the month. According to author Sy Montgomery, "the Talmud praises the rooster and its writers advise Jews to learn from him courtesy toward their mates". But the dark side of roosters outweighs this one small strength - there's the damn crowing, the inevitable attacks and for the hens, the "jumping on your clean back with his dirty, scaly feet...whether you felt like it or not". Montgomery pronounced the hen house a "feminist utopia" once it was rooster free. We'll take this cue from the chickens and pass on the free roosters for now. 

Last evening was gorgeous here in Fallbrook - the reward for enduring a very hot afternoon. We feasted at the Book club meeting last night both on the food and conversation. The creative cooks were inspired by the egg theme. Laurie prepared Beluga lentils (lovely tender little morsels - for more info see the website  with spinach and eggs; Rox contributed a frittata; there was a foccacia (I didn't catch the source); Beth brought a lovely flaky dessert pastry with various fruit and cheesecake fillings; Susan presented stuffed celery on a plate graced by a beautiful ceramic chicken. The Book club food phenomenon is ceaselessly surprising. One minute the table waits, covered with a cloth, wine glasses arranged down the center - a blank canvas. Turn your back for a second, people start arriving and the table is suddenly crowded with delicious dishes. There are no work assignments yet tables are set, dishes are cleared, plates are passed, glasses filled and above all the easy, interesting conversation flows. We drank a good chilled white wine and a couple of bottles of red.

The group agreed that Birdology was fact filled but not well written. Everyone came away with a scrap or two of new fact from the book, but little reading satisfaction. Several people thought that taken chapter by chapter it might make a good magazine series. None of us understood the inclusion of the chapter of hawks and falconry. While thematically correct it seemed inconsistent for the author who loved animals and birds to get so involved in blood sport. Actually the author herself seemed puzzled by her own fascination.

Laurie was surprised to learn that birds do not have a sense of smell. As children, she pointed out, we were all told not to handle birds, in particular, small birds because the mother would reject them if they bore a human scent. The subject of smell and the ability to perceive smells followed.  Rox waxed eloquently about growing up in the San Joaquin valley and knowing her location, even with her eyes closed, by the aromas in each area: packing houses, groves etc. She regrets that her sense of smell is less keen because of allergies. On the subject of smell, Laurie brought a bunch of beautiful aromatic basil that she'd grown from seed - heady stuff which made the room feel like summer. Beth had a stinky tale to tell*.

A fascinating corollary story was told by Rox whose favorite chapter was on pigeons. She started by explaining the small pigeon statue perched on the table. After her grandfather died, she was asked if she wanted something from his house. He had trophies which she admired, which were awarded for winning pigeon races, but as she couldn't travel with a large trophy she requested the pigeon statue topper from one - what a great unique keepsake. Her colorful grandfather, from Belgium, was one of the first people to race pigeons in the US and she has been researching and collecting information about him. 

The indefatigable Beth, though exhausted and dehydrated from dragging and burying a dead goat earlier in the day* seized on the opportunity to give us a demonstration of the egg separator "Bugger Boy Boris". She brought two pale greenish blue eggs from her neighbor's araucana hens.  The two fresh eggs had fragile yolks and didn't work well in the demo but Barbara found an antique beauty in her refrigerator dated, "Enjoy by 1/11/10". Well, we really enjoyed it on 7/14/10. Beth cracked that well-aged baby into Boris' skull and the thick, viscous white oozed through his ceramic nostrils in an appropriately disgusting fashion; one large clump, like a quivering transparent sausage hung on for a spectacularly long time. We laughed and laughed again while Beth read us the punny copy from the instruction sheet packed with the BBB. Kathy remarked that Bugger Boy Boris reminded her of a seat mate she'd had in elementary school!

The section on crows was discussed - I forgot to mention a TED lecture I saw and enjoyed which is available here:
We all agreed that crows and ravens get a bad rap and none of us mind the "murders" we have around Fallbrook.

In our grove I'll hear the whoosh of a crow or hawk's wings occasionally as they take a low swoop overhead which is always a thrill.  I try to imagine what was described in the book about passenger pigeons being so plentiful a century ago that when a flock flew overhead the sky would darken from horizon to horizon for hours and the roar of wings sounded like the winds of a hurricane. It must have been amazing!

*Contact me by email for the whole story which involves rappelling, ravines, devil worship, mountain lions, respirators, picks and shovels for starters.

Photo credits:


  1. Don't think I could stomach having Bugger Boy Boris in my kitchen. But I sure wish I had had it when Megan was around 10 and her friends would come by for sleep overs. Making them french toast for breakfast could have had them entertained as they watched the egg white ooze from Boris.

  2. Yes, the BBB is perfect for 10 year olds. I guess that's why I like it.