Saturday, July 28, 2007

Our national dish - extinct pigeon meat!

The 93rd anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon is upon us in a few weeks.

These gorgeous, fast-flying feathered friends were once so common that their flocks would blot out the sky in North America. The flow of these birds was likened to a river in the heavens. Audubon reported a flock covering the sky for three full days. It was a moveable aviary eclipse. The poop bombing was quite impressive too.

The mass murder of every single one of these birds - estimated at around two billion - must've been quite a source of pride for humankind back then.

Their extinction screwed up the food chain and led to Lyme disease in humans. Passenger Pigeons would feast on nuts and acorns. Once they went extinct that left a whole lot more food for deer mice, which thrived and gave us Lyme disease.

So what does this have to do with Montreal, Coolopolis, Coolopolis Towers, Montreal culture, Chimples the Intelligent Chimp or any of those things we usually discuss here?

Well, the French term for passenger pigeon is: la tourte.
And what is our national dish here in Quebec? Tourtiere, known as meat pie. Well, in fact, tourtiere means Passenger Pigeon Pie. What kind of meat do you think they used?

The tiny Ile au tourte, now just the footing for eponymous bridge off the western tip of our island is another rare reminder of the onetime presence of these lovable winged creatures.

Nowadays tourtiere is made of pork and beef spiced with clove. But the original recipe involved meat from this now-extinct beautiful bird.Maybe if we didn't enjoy tourtiere so much we'd still have a couple of these birds around with us today.

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