When I was a kid, we used to chase these wild, flightless birds called guineas around my grandparents’ farm. There wasn’t much to do at the farm, and chasing wild birds was about as exciting as it got. No matter how fast we ran after those guineas, we never caught up to them. That was part of the fun. We just ran around and around. But the other day at the farmers’ market, I finally caught one.
Until I encountered guineas at the farmer’s market, I wasn’t actually sure that “guinea” was a real word that you were allowed to say without getting into trouble. Sort of like “chiggers,” those little burrs that stick to your clothes out in the country, “guinea” seemed like a word that–even if it technically acceptable on say, Wikipedia–was probably not something you should just throw around casually.
Michael Pollan writes eloquently in The Omnivore’s Dilemma about the virtues of knowing what it takes to bring a plate of food to the table. And particularly with meat, he makes a good case for getting more in touch with what you’re eating. Chicken isn’t just something that’s available shrink-wrapped or in buckets from KFC. It’s a living, breathing thing that has to die at some point in order for you to be nourished. But all of Pollan’s well-crafted prose on the matter is no match for this face, which speaks for itself.
Yes, the French poultry man at the farmer’s market leaves the heads on his guineas. He also informed me that he particularly enjoys roasting and eating “zee brains,” but I wasn’t quite ready to go there. So I chopped off the head before I stuck this once living thing into my oven. But it wasn’t easy. As you can see, she didn’t look too happy about being turned into dinner.
Ultimately, the guinea turned into a great, if somewhat haunting, meal. Any friend of mine or reader of this blog knows I’m a dedicated carnivore. Maybe staring a meal in the face once in a while is the price I have to pay for the privilege of eating another living creature. On the other hand, maybe this guinea was just particularly pissed because she knew I was not just a carnivore, but a guinea chaser, too.
Jeff Lynne’s take on this issue: