Thrush Pie?


The shooting season for many birds - mallard, teal, wigeon, golden plover, snipe - began on September 1st. Pheasant and woodcock come on November 1st. That's in Ireland. In France just now the thrushes are falling to the guns and a magazine goes through the various kinds of thrush before telling us of the more delicious ways to prepare the birds for the table. The heading is "Tasty, the Thrush".

Then the article enumerates and describes the various thrushes that are come across in France, either as permanent residents or as migrating flocks. First is the mistle thrush, a permanent resident. It lives, we are told, after a description of its plumage, on berries and other small fruit including that of mistletoe. Then there is the fieldfare, which we in Ireland see arriving in flocks during winter. The redwing also. The song thrush is known in France, according to the article, also as the thrush of the vines and vine harvest. Best eaten, we are told, in October, when it has had its fill of grapes. (Poulterers, by the way, are not allowed to sell thrushes.)

And thrushes, unlike much other game, should not be kept or "hung". It should be eaten fresh. And you don't "draw" it, or take out the entrails. You keep it moist, perhaps by wrapping it in a vine leaf. The magazine gives several recipes and says, that according to which you choose, you should count two, three or even four birds per person. Near to where this is written, a song thrush, for months it seemed, sang early morning and early evening from the topmost branch of a nearby tree. Could you bear to eat it if someone shot it - illegally, in this country, of course?

But the French are a very practical people, they like to say. A bird is a bird. Do not you people in Ireland shoot small birds like snipe? And do you not advertise to encourage foreigners to come to shooting parties in the winter in your country? Is there a difference between the tiny snipe and the thrush, just because your classification is different from ours? That's a French viewpoint we needn't go into. They have been obstinate over the EU regulations on shooting and will continue to be so, very likely. Anyway, they give, in this shooting and fishing magazine, three elaborate ways of presenting the thrush for the table, such as thrush tart with olives . . . We do eat tiny quail - farmed.