Stewed Quail

Quaglia in Umido

Quail with PappardelleThis is a dish that Zia and I prepared during my last visit home but it requires a bit of an explanation. I originally had intended to share my family’s recipe for preparing pigeon back in the day. The only problem was that I couldn’t source them, except for one place not far from here. Unfortunately, I was there once when an order for pigeons was placed and witnessed their “preparation”. Their handling was beyond rough and I could never purchase a pigeon there. Now, I’m fully aware of how meat comes to be displayed in our markets and, over the years, have watched more than my fair share of poultry “prepared” for our dinners. Hard as it may be for some to believe, there are comparatively humane ways to do this and when I see evidence to the contrary, I find another place to shop and something else to eat.  So, with quail more readily available, we substituted it for the pigeon in today’s recipe. Besides, you’ll probably find the tale I’m about to tell much more enjoyable if you know that we won’t be cooking pigeon later.

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Although pigeon was prepared for dinner at the old two-flat, it certainly wasn’t served frequently or with any regularity.  It was simply a matter of supply, for it wasn’t every day that you could find enough pigeons to prepare and serve. The family did have its sources, though. One, a workmate of Uncle, bred pigeons and often gave us young birds that didn’t meet his standards. Of course, there was the farmers market and I often watched as Grandpa haggled with the vendor over an amount as little as a quarter. In reality, this was all a game and I had a front row seat. It’s not like there were dozens of vendors selling young pigeons, nor were there throngs of people queuing at their stalls demanding the birds. Grandpa and the vendor haggled a bit but both knew all along that the deal had been struck the moment Grandpa walked up to the vendor’s stall. For me, it was part of the fun of going with Grandpa to the market. The third source for pigeon was from Grandpa’s farmer friend. You may recall that this was the farm where our dogs went, never to be seen again. As luck would have it, they were always out in the fields playing when we visited the farm.

I must have been about 7 years old when Grandpa brought home a single, very young pigeon. Today, the source of this bird is a point of debate. There are those who think it came from Uncle’s friend while others believe it came from the farmer. No matter whence it came, this bird, being a loner, wasn’t destined for the table. “Duke” would become one of the most memorable pets that ever shared the two-flat with us.

Though it may sound odd to have a pigeon as a pet, Duke was only one of many animals that found their way to our home. There were dogs, fish, rabbits, turtles, chameleons, frogs, birds, Chinese pheasants, and even a snake, though the snake’s stay was quite brief before being set free in the yard. Our neighbor, Mrs. A, wasn’t happy about that and, for years, whenever she spotted a snake in her garden, it was ours that she saw. It was just our luck to have found and let loose the Methuselah of snakes. Poor, long-suffering Mrs. A. She was a wonderful woman who treated us kids very kindly. This despite our snake taking up residence in her garden, and, Duke roosting outside her bedroom window every night. That window ledge would never be the same.

Now, Duke was no ordinary pigeon nor pet, for that matter. First of all, Duke was actually a Duchess — having laid an egg under Zia’s sofa. It didn’t seem to mind having a masculine name so Duke she remained. She was ever-present. If you were in the backyard, Duke was sure to appear, swooping down from above. If you were eating a snack somewhere outside, Duke would find you quicker than the dog and wait for a piece of whatever it was you were eating. Even so, she was most closely attached to Grandpa and Nonna.

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Parish School*     *     *

Pictured above is St. Juliana’s parish school and, for a time, church. In between the two entrances on the right is a row of 9 rather tall windows, indicating where the parish church was once located. (It was replaced in the early 1960’s.) Missing from this more recent photo are the large sconces, one of which was placed on either side of each entrance.

As you can see, the building was rather small and, with 16 classrooms, so was the church. Although there were several services on Sunday mornings, the 9:00 mass was meant for us kids and the service and sermon were more child-friendly. The 10:15 service was the one that Nonna, Grandpa, and Duke attended. Every Sunday morning at 10:00, Nonna and Grandpa would walk down the street to the church, with Duke circling overhead. When it was warm, Duke would wait for them from her perch atop the building. On cold or wet days, she’d take refuge in one of the sconces, its damaged pane allowing the bird access. Once mass was finished, Duke waited for Nonna and Grandpa to reappear and, again, circled overhead as they walked home. We often hear tales of dogs following children to school or church but a pigeon?

My most vivid memory of Duke, though, involves Grandpa and her. (Big surprise, eh?) As I’ve mentioned, Grandpa was an active retiree and was often behind the wheel on his way to visit friends or run errands. Duke would join him, at least for a couple of blocks, and ride on the car’s hood — “bonnet” for some of you — like an ornament. Of course, Grandpa drove very slowly, allowing Duke to play hood ornament for as long as possible. It was truly something to see, with children and adults alike pausing to watch them pass. More often than not, the children laughed and pointed while the adults smiled and shook their heads. When Grandpa approached a busy street, he’d rev the engine a bit, signaling to Duke that it was time for her to return home, and off she went.

Unfortunately, Duke was taken out late one evening and, in the dark, never made it back home. Although we often asked for another pigeon to raise, none was ever available. In retrospect, I think Grandpa knew that Duke was one of a kind and that no other bird could ever replace her. And today, mention Duke to any of the two-flat’s residents and you’re sure to get a smile in reply.

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Today’s recipe can be used for either quail or pigeon and the main caution when preparing the birds is the same for both: do not over-brown. Quail are relatively small and if they are browned as one would beef, for example, they will be dry by the time they’re fully cooked. The same is true for pigeon, though they are larger and can be browned for a little while longer. In either case, you just want a little bit of color on the birds’ bodies.

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Quail Simmering*     *     *

Stewed Quail Recipe

Ingredients

  • cooked pasta
  • 4 whole quail, dressed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small – medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 large can (28 oz, 794 g) tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 4 oz white wine
  • salt & pepper
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

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Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over med-high heat.
  2. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes before adding garlic and parsley. Continue to sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
  3. Add quail to the pot and LIGHTLY brown on all sides.
  4. Remove quail and add remaining ingredients to the pot. Mix well and bring to the boil.
  5. Return quail to the pot and return to the boil before reducing the heat to a soft simmer. Cook until done, about 30 to 45 minutes. (See Notes)
  6. Remove quail to a serving dish.
  7. Use sauce to dress the pasta, reserving some for use at the table.
  8. Garnish the pasta with grated cheese and place both pasta and quail on a large serving platter.
  9. Serve immediately.

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Quail 2*     *     *

Notes

It cannot be overstated: do not over-brown the birds.

Cooking times will vary depending upon whether you use quail or pigeon. Being larger, pigeon will take longer to stew. Use a fork to test each bird to see whether it is fully cooked. The meat should not be “falling off the bone”.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …Passatini in Brodo

This time of year, there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup to warm you up. Easy to make and with ingredients every pantry is sure to have, passatini is a delicious soup and comforting meal, whether it’s served for lunch or dinner. You can see Mom’s recipe for passatini by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Tuna CasseroleMom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

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177 thoughts on “Stewed Quail

  1. Wonderful tale….I kept thinking of John Wayne sitting on a window ledge! I very much like pigeon and we have a very good source of them nearby. One the other hand, Jenny could not countenance eating a pigeon, so the only opportunity I get to eat them is on the rare occasion I find them on a menu in a restaurant. If you’re in Paris, go to Chez Allard – http://www.restaurant-allard.fr/ and have the pigeon and peas.

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    • Thanks, Roger, but now I have to talk to my family. Grandpa was a huge fan of the Duke and now I wonder if there was a connection. Regardless, I love the irony. Too bad J Edgar Hoover was too long a name for a pet. 😉

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  2. ..on second thoughts, I just read that Chez Allard has been taken over by Alain Ducasse, which means that it now costs a fortune and the pigeon and peas is not on the (very good) menu. The old Chez Allard also did a wonderful Canard Roti aux Olives Vertes….this was served as a whole duck and was marvellous.

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    • Funny you mention duck, I’ve one in the freezer that I’ve got to do prepare. I meant to bring it to Michigan for my last visit to learn how Zia would cook it bu forgot all about it. Roasting it with olives sounds really good!

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  3. Welcome back! Hope your birthday month was a lovely one. The story about your pet pigeon was so heartfelt and perfect for Valentine’s day and the recipe superb as usual. Looking forward to your posts.

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  4. I love the story about Duke! But I have to say that ending such a wonderful tale with a recipe which works just as well with pigeons demonstrates a certain sense of black humour!
    Anyway, lovely story, and seemingly very tasty quail. I’m happy you are back!

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  5. Haha, loved the pigeon-bonnet part. It brightend my morning 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story! And also for the pidgeon/quail recipe. Sunny greetings from Germany.

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  6. Great story, John! You are a wonderful storyteller 🙂 is like being there…
    As for the dish, well, quail is still a meat on my list to try someday, but not on the top of it 😉 They look delicious, though.
    Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to see the recipe for that tuna casserole!
    G

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    • That’s a very nice compliment, Giovanna, thank you. I understand your feelings about quail. I probably never would have tried it if I could find pigeon in the markets. As it is, I liked quail so much that I bought more and cannot wait to cook them again. 🙂

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  7. Your recipe, as always, looks absolutely delicious! Your detailed recipes coupled with beautiful pics continue to push me to be more adventurous in the kitchen. Thanks to you I braised a lovely goat shoulder! Beyond your recipes, your reminiscing of days gone by put me right there in the flat with you. Thank you for sharing your lovely tales of family 🙂

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    • Thanks, Nancy, that’s such a nice comment to leave. I have to admit that if you asked me 4 or 5 years ago to, say, cook an octopus, I would have thought you nuts. Now, though, cooking all of these old family recipes, I feel like I can tackle just about anything. I’m glad you braised the goat shoulder. Good, isn’t it? Did you serve it as-is or did you ‘pull’ it for sandwiches? I’ve been toying with the idea of getting another one and you’ve just about convinced me to do it. 🙂

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      • Prego! I’m happy you have such a fearless attitude in recreating your family recipes…I (along with others) get to reap the rewards! It must be the loving memories that get the job done 🙂 As for the goat – both ways! I had a smidgen of leftovers for pulled sandwiches the next day. Both were absolutely delicious – I’ll definitely serve it up again!

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  8. Glad to see you back in full flight (pardon the intended pun) I hope you had a productive month away from the kitchen. I love both quail and pigeon, but next to never prepare it at home. I know I should …….

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    • Thank you. From what I’ve seen, you cook a wide variety of foods and not only do it well, you managed to prepare some amazing meals while traveling across Oz, for heaven’s sake! I really am surprised that you’ve not cooked either bird. When you do — and I know you will — please post the recipe. I’d love to see it.

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  9. Love your story, warm and wonderful, I have visions of Duke perching on grandpa car’s hood enjoying the ride. Did she wave (flap her wings) to the passerby as she was cruising along? Have eaten quail but only when it was prepared for me, perhaps someday I will give your recipe a try.

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    • Thank you, Norma. When Grandpa “took Duke for a ride”, she stood motionless, at the very tip of the hood, just as an ornament would on a fancy car. He drove slow enough that she needn’t flap her wings at all. Together, they really were something to see. 🙂

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  10. I have never eaten quail but the way you tell a story and your instructions and presentation makes me want to try this dish. I just think I would be able to pull it off as well as you do. Plus I don’t know where to find this bird. WELCOME BACK!

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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    • Thanks, Francine. It’s good to be back. To be honest, I first notice quail a few months ago in my Italian market. They come frozen, 4 to a package. I found these in the freezer section where there’s duck and Cornish game hens. Since then, I’ve found them at my Greek market and, again, they were frozen next to the duck and game hens. I know Pittsburgh has a thiving Little Italy section. If you’re interested it preparing quail, you might start your search there. Good luck!

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  11. Being a New Yorker, I don’t think there is any way I would ever bring myself to eat pigeon! This does look delicious and we have never tried quail – wonder how that would go over here. Maybe I will try this with some good old chicken – Thanks for sharing a great story!

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    • I hear ya! I can assure you, no ‘city birds’ ever made it to our table. Who knows what they eat? Quail, like pigeon, has a touch of a gamey flavor. Nothing very pronounced but just a bit. If you cannot get quail, rather than chicken, why not try game hens? I imagine there’d be considerably less shock value for your 3 food critics, being that quail are really quite small and relatively boney. Either way, good luck. That is one post I do not want to miss!

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      • Thanks for the suggestion -I will do a bit of research and see if I can find some game hens. I know the local supermarket will NOT have them. And if I do use them I can always tell the kids it is chicken –

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  12. What a wonderful story John! Loved it. I’ve never eaten pigeon but I have had quail before… it’s absolutely delicious. I can imagine how nice it’d be in this delicious sauce with the fresh pasta. Yum! Hope that your birthday month was wonderful. So nice to see another post from you… I always feel very blessed to have read your stories and family recollections. Duke sounds like a very special pigeon 🙂

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    • That’s such a nice comment to leave, Laura. Thank you very much. I had a wonderful birthday and really enjoyed my time off. Except for being smaller, quail is very similar to pigeon. Being so small, though, it is a bit tricky to cook. You really don’t want to overdo it or the meat will be dry, even if stewed like it is here. Yes, Duke was truly one of a kind.

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  13. Lovely story! Your grandparents and Duke would appreciate what happened this past Sunday.
    One of our parishioners, a woman of poverty of income and richness of heart, was away during the annual Blessing of the Animals service two weeks ago. Our minister arranged to include a blessing for her pets during Sunday’s run-of-the-mill service. Patty brought one pet as ambassador for the other two dozen back at the apartment: Donald, a rescue duck, an Appleyard-Mallard bas**** that its mum’s breeder had no use for.
    (Don’t worry, most of the other pets are much smaller birds — no quails, though.)

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    • Thank you for sharing that story. How nice that your minister made arrangements so that her house mates received their blessing, too. I think my family may have been one of the reasons our parish never practiced the Blessing of the Animals. What a sight that would have been if we brought our menagerie to church one Sunday. Better the priest come to our house. 🙂

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  14. Honestly John – you should consider writing a book. You could include all your wonderful & well-written tales & your delicious recipes!!! I’m not kidding!! As always, I love this recipe – I’d like to try it with rabbit. Actually, did I ever email you a photo of my rabbit dish? It looks quite a bit like this. I can’t wait to try this recipe AND I can’t wait to see your mother’s Tuna Casserole recipe. I used to really enjoy Tuna Noodle Casserole when I was a kid!! Last but not least – with this nasty, cold weather – the Pastini soup recipe is just the thing!!

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    • Thanks, Cecile, You’re beginning to sound like my Zia. She wants me to put together a book with the stories and recipes. Aside from a few family members, I doubt anyone else would want it. I’m no Hemingway and the two-flat was hardly Downton Abbey. 🙂
      I don’t recall a photo of your method of preparing rabbit. My family cooks rabbit, too, though not with tomatoes. It’s on “the list” and one of these days I’ll post the recipe. Like you, i love tuna noodle casserole and literally forgot all about the dish. Only now, with this oppressive Winter, did I think of it and I’m so glad I did! Passatini is such a simple soup but it sure tastes great. It’s one of my family’s recipes that I was very happy to learn to make. It’s a bowl of memories. 🙂

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        • Your stories are wonderful. I worked for a while in NYC for a publishing company – I know the difference between good & bad writing. Your recipes are authentic and delicious. DO IT!!
          Think about it, good old Martha Stewart grew up in a tiny, nothing town in New Jersey!! What gives your story charm is they come from your heart – and your memories – and your family’s history. You’d be boring (possibly…) if you’d grown up with a Silver Spoon! (You could sell your book on Amazon.com – that’s one example!)
          I’m sending you – via email – a photo of when I cooked rabbit here in Western Mass. I used to cook rabbit in Malta – plus cook our own farm-raised rabbits at our farm in Quebec – but it’s a rare sight to find rabbit for sale around here!
          As you know – rabbit is delicious !! ; o ) Looking forward to when you publish your authentic Italian recipe!! (I have two recipes given to me in Malta – so they’re ‘authentically Maltese!)

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          • Thanks, Cecile. This has been a recurring topic with some members of my family. Before dismissing it out of hand, as I have been doing, I should at least look into it a bit. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

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  15. Welcome back, John! I see I missed your post last week, somehow…I actually went to your blog this morning to get one of your fresh pasta recipes and here you were. Such a nice surprise. We are going out of town this next weekened and my kids and I are going to take the new pasta attachment and give it a go! So you were my go-to recipe. Now I love the story of Duke and can hardly believe she was so in tune with the rhythms of family life. That’s quite remarkable. My husband raised homing pigeons as a child and has always talked about how smart they were. This is a wonderful story. You’ve been missed. I hope the break was all you needed it to be, but I’m glad you’ve returned.

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    • Thanks, Debra. The break was great and my birthday was wonderful. I’m so happy that you’re going to make pasta. You and the Girls are going to love it! There’s really nothing quite like it at any store. You’ll see and I cannot wait to hear how it went. Good luck!
      I think most would be surprised to learn how smart all birds are, including pigeons. Like a dog waiting outside a door, Duke would alight on a window ledge and peck at the window, hoping one of us kids would let her in — much to our Moms’ dismay. That’s how the egg got laid under Zia’s sofa. 🙂

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    • Victor/Victoria! Love it, Toni! When I was about 13, I got my first job at the neighborhood pet shop. I once asked the owners, an elderly married couple, how to tell the difference between male and female pigeons. They looked at each other and then Mr. A started to explain avian anatomy. I must have looked stunned because Mrs A asked if something was wrong. I explained that I meant something like feather markings or something with the beak, like parakeets. Mr A quickly said, “No, no, nothing like that.” Although I don’t remember hearing it, I’m sure they both breathed a sigh of relief when I left. 🙂

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  16. You have the best stories! Great recipes too, but the stories are second-to-none! I agree Duke was one of a kind. And great idea to substitute quail for pigeon. I haven’t had much pigeon, but it does somewhat resemble quail in flavor. And in a dish like this? I’ll bet few could tell the difference. Really nice recipe. And I’ll remember not to overbrown the quail!

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    • Thanks, John. At the time, each of us surely thought how nice it would be to live in separate houses. You know, like they did on TV. Now, decades later, we all realize just how special that place was and our lucky we were. Each of us “kids” have our own set of stories to tell.
      Quail does taste very much like pigeon, though their size is a dead give-away. Zia and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve more in the freezer to bring with me the next time I visit. Zia was adamant about not letting the quail brown too long. I wanted to make sure I passed that along and, judging by your comment, I think I did. 🙂

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  17. We recently lived in a house in a neighborhood inundated by pigeons on all the roofs. At any given moment I could hear a neighbor’s window go up and hands clapping or shouting to shoo the birds away. Myself included (it was that incessant cooing). Had I only known about the possibility of making extra cash off of these feathered “friends” by selling them to farmer markets and/or chefs at fine dining establishments…

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    • I’ve the same problem here. At dawn, the cooing starts every morning, no matter the season. These are city birds, though, Angeline. Best not mention that to your prospective customers. The only city bird that ever made it to our table was Duke and she wasn’t being served. She was looking for a hand-out. 🙂

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  18. I totally agree we need to respect the animal we eat, both in ways of raising it, and slaughtering it, and try not to buy from those who seem to forget that.
    I usually roast quails but I love the stew here. Will try to make it next time I get quails.

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    • We’re in agreement, Ronit, and I wish it was easier to learn how our meats are processed. There should be total transparency when it comes to our food.
      I’d be afraid to roast quail, thinking I might over-cook them. Now that you mention it, though, it sure does sound like a great way to prepare them. I need to give it a try — just keep an eye on them in the oven. 🙂

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  19. I adored this post John. The story of Duke is so well-written. I could picture every scene in my mind. I love the stories about your Grandpa, as you know, but this one might now be my favorite. 🙂 And your meal looks so good. I love quail, but have not had it prepared as a stew. I suddenly have the urge to go buy some quail. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kristy, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Duke was really special and she’s why I’ve a parrot today. Birds are such fascinating creatures and I cannot imagine my home without one.
      Being they’re so small and easy to overcook, placing them in a stew is much more forgiving. Still, a previous commenter mentioned that she roasts them and that does sounds delicious. I may need to give it a try. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Stefan. It really is good to be back, though, with over 700 notifications in my inbox, maybe I should have stayed away a little longer. 😉 I doubt I’ll ever have pigeon again, unless it’s on a menu. I’ve only found it in that one place and, as I said, I wouldn’t buy a pigeon from them. Quail, though, was a good substitute, surprising even Zia. I’ve got more im my freezer so she’s going to get more surprises. 🙂

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      • I don’t like pigeon at all when it’s been frozen, as it develops a ‘livery’ taste. Around here two kinds of fresh pigeon are available, expensive ‘heirloom’ French farmed pigeons, and inexpensive hunted forest pigeons (not city pigeons, also known as rats with wings!). Medium rare pigeon breast is one of my favorite meats, but alas it is one of the few things that Kees doesn’t like.
        I expect quail to freeze better than pigeon as it is a whiter meat (at least farmed quail is anyway).

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        • I’m glad you came back to tell me about frozen pigeon, Stefan. Thank you. If I ever do see it here, it will probably be frozen and now I know to avoid it. Yes, I know about the flying rats. I can honestly report that the only city bird that made it to our table was Duke and she was a guest not an entrée. 🙂

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  20. So sweet.. I’d like to think that Duke flew off and found another Duke and there was a brood of baby Duke’s flying around after that:) I love these stories from your past, they always bring a smile to my face. I’ve only cooked with quail once before, I think we opened them up (a cooking instructor) and laid them flat? I just remember they were lovely, I’d like to try your sauce now! xx

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    • Thank you, Barb. Funny you mention that Duke lived on. We were young when he disappeared and I can remember looking at pigeons in the sky and wondering if one was Duke. We all really did miss that bird. Everyone had a dog or cat but how many kids had a pigeon that came when called? In the playground pecking order, we ruled!
      If you’re going to roast or grill quail, I think splitting them is a great idea and the only way to go. They’re so tiny that parts would be over-cooked if you tried roasting them whole. Stewing them like this is so much more forgiving.

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  21. What a lovely story about the pigeon, I had no idea they were smart enough to grow attached. I wish I had read this story a couple if years ago, we had a pigeon make a nest on the Juliet balcony at work. Quite surprisingly we did have pigeon wire all over the balcony but this determined pigeon made her nest between the sharp poky bits! (Even more surprisingly, they stopped nesting there as soon as the sharp pigeon wire was removed). Well that dumb pigeon went and had two eggs which hatched! Then she abandoned them. Poor things took a few days to die; I had called animal services on a Thursday and they suggested to give it the weekend to see if the mother would return. She did not. I tried building them shelter from the hot July sun, but they needed food. I must say though, baby pigeons are quite the ugliest birds I have ever seen!
    Apparently the French eat pigeon as do the Moroccan’s for obvious reasons. I’ll stick to your gorgeous quail, that sauce looks incredible!

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    • Thanks, Eva. Too bad about those nestlings. I wonder if Ma & Pa pigeon felt secure with the pigeon wire in place and, when it was removed, thought the nest was no longer safe. No matter the reason, that must have been a tough thing to witness. Still, when they’re so young, it’s almost impossible for us common folk to feed them correctly. Duke was young when we got him and I cannot remember who fed him. I think that Zia and Nonna did it, with Mom filling in occasionally but I cannot be sure. I don’t know how many times we’ve talked about this post being written and I’ve never remembered to ask Zia who fed Baby Duke!!! When I do remember, I’ll add a line to the post.
      Quail worked so well in this recipe — and pigeon being impossible to find — I think I’ll stick with quail from now on and stop searching for pigeon altogether.

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  22. Wow John, You are back. What a lovely story. What a wonderful recipe and I do believe that the photo of the raw quail is art.
    Great stuff indeed. You are inspiring me to try some game recipes, before the season ends here in Ireland.

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    • Thanks, Conor, for your kind words and especially the photo compliment. I struggle with the photos and look with envy at yours and those of others within our community. It’s great to learn that, like the blind squirrel, I found a nut. 🙂

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  23. This is all new to me! There is a quail farm (maybe more) in the Sacramento area. I have to explore what they have. I also made a vow to find out more about the farmers who sell grass fed beef. Your photography is gorgeous, and the how-to is very helpful. I am also looking forward to the upcoming recipes.

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    • Thanks, Arlene. Both Zia and I enjoyed quail prepared like this. It was a real blast from the past, for it’s been ages since we cooked anything similar. I, too, am trying to learn more about how the meat I buy is processed. It’s a shame that the info isn’t more readily available and I’m determined to patronize those who supply our meat and do so “with a conscience.”

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  24. Fabulous story John – so pleased that you weren’t able to source an ethically-reared pigeon to cook, after hearing about Duke! Somehow would have been a little hard to swallow…
    Your stewed quail looks delicious though! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Margot. It’s odd now to think of it but. back then, I never did associate the pigeons that were served with Duke. Dad and all 4 of my Grandparents were farmers and we understood the difference between pets and food. I’m not so sure I could be so understanding now, if I were to have a pigeon as a pet. As it is, I’ve a parrot and she lays 2 eggs every 8 weeks or so. I’ve been asked if I use them and I cannot imagine doing so. I’m growing soft in my old age. 🙂

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  25. What a great story John. My younger sister had a pet chicken who used to try to follow her to school every day and we had to lock him up. I was wondering how you ever found quail & don’t think I’ve ever run across it here but it sounds like the perfect substitute for pigeon. I have a cookbook from ZaZa’s restaurant in Florence and so many of the recipes were for pigeon. I was thinking of substituting chicken for it but I think quail, or maybe duck? would be better. Looks delicious.

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    • Thanks, Diane. Birds are amazing creatures and really quite smart. If you haven’t experience with them, they can be very surprising. I found my quail at “my” Italian and Greek markets, though I bet a high-end grocery may also have them. Look for them in the frozen foods section, near where they have duck and Cornish game hens. Quail, though smaller, is similar in taste and a very good substitute for pigeon. I don’t know if duck word work, though. They have so much fat that you’d have to be careful to choose a recipe that would take that into account. Do let me know what you decide and how it goes. I’m very interested. 🙂

      Like

      • I’ll have to check Wegmans although I never thought to look in the frozen foods section — thank you. Good advice too on the duck, I wasn’t thinking of the fat content, more the texture of the meat. Of course we do have our fair share of ‘mourning doves’ aka country pigeons out here. I could perhaps let the cat out every now & then 🙂

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  26. That is a priceless story and I’m so happy you shared. My father, when he was a child, used to raise homing pigeons. Personally, i can’t see my dad raising anything of the animal variety. But he says he did, until the day they didn’t come back. Hmmm. In any case this looks wonderful, John!

    Like

    • Thanks, Abbe. It is odd for a flock of pigeons to stray. No matter the reason, your poor Dad must have been heartbroken. I’m glad that you enjoyed the story and recipe. This was one that was a breeze to write. Not many can write about a pet pigeon. 🙂

      Like

  27. So good to read your blog today, and the recipes of things to come, leave us hankering for more- recipes AND stories. I remember my grandfather wringing a couple of chickens’ necks quite deftly and their being on the Sunday table when we visited in Lincoln, Illinois. Your story brought up that memory for me. Love the accompanying photo of St. Juliana’s too. We are right there with you via your words and photos as the tale unfolds.
    So glad to see the notice From the Bartolini Kitchens in my inbox today. Happy New Year.
    Ruth

    Like

    • Thanks, Ruth. It’s good to be back and welcomed like this. As a boy, I saw many birds “prepared” and very often helped clean them. It may sound strange but I never did associate Duke with any of those birds, any more than I did one of our parakeets. I was happy to find that pic of the old school and only wish I could find one of Duke. She deserves to be here, too. 🙂

      Like

    • Thanks, Ken. How you would love to visit my Zia! We both so love pasta and I make some just about every day I’m there. What we don’t cook, I leave for her to prepare after I’m gone. In this dish, the quail is tasty and helps to make a flavorful sauce. Zia doesn’t know it yet but I’ve bought more to bring her when I next visit. 🙂

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  28. You write so beautifully, John, about your parents, Duke (and your family had quite a menagerie), and that the pigeon would circle overhead on the walk home from St. Juliana’s is just incredible. It’s wonderful that you have these vivid and fond memories of your childhood. The finished quail is so lovely. I haven’t dined on quail in a very long time, but I think it’s something I’d like to try soon. I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for you gracious compliments. Watching the 3 of them go to-and-from church every Sunday morning was really something and noticed by many. A number of years later, as a teenager, I worked at the school, helping the maintenance men during a few Summers. The men made sure I knew of the times they had to clean up after Duke when she spent time in that sconce waiting for Mass to end. 🙂

      Like

    • Thank you, Meredith. That’s exactly how I feel when I read your posts about Paradise. For me. it’s one of blogging great gifts, to see and learn about other people and places.

      Like

  29. Loved reading about Duke. No, I can’t imagine a pigeon as a pet, but I do know what it’s like to have a favorite pet and, after many years of its passing, its name still makes you smile. Thanks for sharing your story John. Personally, I think I would rather eat quail than pigeon. I actually love quail and this dish looks divine! What a simple and lovely sauce.

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    • Thanks, MJ. Grandpa, in retrospect, had a way with animals. At one time he, too, owned a parrot. At another time, he had a crow that was better trained than Duke. Those were in addition to his dog. He always had a dog at his side.
      One lesson I’ve learned when re-creating these heirloom recipes with Zia is that none of them are complicated. Unlike so many of today’s celebrated Italian chefs, our dishes are really quite simple, in comparison. Once I learned that and quit trying to “doctor up” the recipes, my cooking started to improve and my admiration for their cooking soared. 🙂

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  30. è così bello passare da te! ho sempre ricette molto succulente da copiare che poi riproduco nella mia cucina con molto successo! e tante storie di cui ci fai partecipe con gentilezza e molto tatto
    Grazie davvero, una lieta giornata per te
    Ventis

    Like

  31. What a lovely story. I love the stories of your childhood, John, they’re full of such warmth. What an incredible bird Duke was – a much loved member of the family for sure. I love how you grew up with so many pets. My Archie had a pet snake and it often escaped. I slept with one eye open the entire time we had it xx

    Like

    • Thanks you, Charlie. The years in that two-flat were really special, though none of us realized it at the time. One of the reasons that snake was released was because the adults didn’t want one in the house. I brought one home, too, and Dad’s reaction was swift and that snake was gone within about a minute. I never dreamt of doing that again. 😉

      Like

  32. Superb dish John and a great tale! I too have borne witness to pidgeons getting ‘dispatched’ for dinner initially when I walked in on my father in his shed as a kid. I was told not to go in but taught me a lot about the source of our food so I’m glad I did.

    Like

    • Thanks, Phil. As a boy, I saw poultry of all forms “dispatched” and though I don’t care to see it again, you’re right. It is something that we should all witness.I only wish the meat packing industry was more transparent. We can treat these animals more humanely,

      Like

  33. I want a Duke now too! What an incredible story John!
    Seeing as we have taken the anchovy pasta off the list for when I visit and seeing as I have never eaten quail before… I was just thinking that maybe we could put this scrumity number on the menu 🙂 Just a thought.
    Have a lovely day John.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    Like

    • I’m with you, Mandy. I’d love another Duke. She was just incredible!
      Not to worry, quail is already under list/ They’re so small that I listed them under “Light Lunches”. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

      Like

    • A magpie? I bet that was something, too. Grandpa also had a crow, years before I arrived on the scene. He was supposed to be smarter and better tamed than Duke, though I cannot imagine that. 🙂

      Like

  34. A lovely story… Duke was no ordinary “bird brain”, and I’m glad you honored her memory by making conscientious choices when purchasing your birds for this meal. I’m sure in would have been quite inedible otherwise.
    I’ve yet to bring myself to eat either quail or pigeon – the only quail I’ve encountered being cute & wild… and pigeons the opposite. But you make it look appealing, so you never know.

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    • Thanks, EllaDee. When possible, I do consider how the meat was raised and processed before purchasing, I was very happy to recently learn that humanely raised veal is available at one of our markets. I’ve never felt comfortable purchasing veal and do so very rarely. Now that I have a place to buy it relatively guilt-free, I just have to find a way to afford it. 🙂

      Like

    • That is quite a compliment, Sharyn, but don’t worry. If you come to my house, I think we’ll find something to prepare that is more in tune with your customary diet. No pigeon nor quail will be harmed during the preparation of that meal. 🙂

      Like

  35. These are wonderful stories that you’ve shared from your childhood. I love the thought of the pigeon riding on the car or waiting outside the church. The stories would make a lovely illustrated children’s book.

    As for the stewed quail – YUM! Honestly, I’m such a carnivore.

    Like

    • Thanks, Ruth. I’ve never though of compiling these stories into a book, especially a children’s book. My Zia is after me to get a book together based on blog, both recipes and stories. That’s quite an undertaking for someone like me with experience in it whatsoever.

      Like

  36. You’ve outdone yourself with the stories about Duke, I believe. Wonderful! I adore quail. Have only had pigeon a couple times in France and they cooked it a little too rare for my taste (Steve and I always laugh about a waitress warning us, “It is pink! Very pink!”).

    Like

    • Thanks, Michelle. I’ve many favorite memories from back then but Duke riding on Grandpa’s car is certainly high on that list.
      Pink? I can say with some certainty that our pigeon was never served pink. It certainly wasn’t well done, either. While we cooked these quail, Zia repeatedly checked them to make sure they didn’t over cook.But pink? I don’t know if I would have been happy with that.

      Like

  37. What a beautiful story John! I could actually visualize it all as you tell it. Wow, Duke must have been an incredible pigeon. Amazing! And your quail dish looks superb. My dad was a huge fan of quail and usually roasted them. And oh, how I enjoyed them. Occasionally, he would add some to his tomato sauce to add flavour to it, and your preparation of this dish reminds me of that. Beautiful John!

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    • Thanks, Lidia. Others have said that they’ve roasted quail and I have to wonder how. The birds are so small that you’ve got to keep an eye on them. Your Dad must have been a great cook to be able to pull that off.
      As for Duke, that bird was really something and I can still see her on a window ledge looking in at us as we ate or watched TV. It was so very normal for us but, today, I can only imagine what our guests must have thought. 🙂

      Like

  38. Pingback: Stewed Quail | Italian Food & Wine | Scoop.it

  39. I am sure you and Zia enjoyed this dish very much. Marjoram is an underutilized spice, and pecorino romano should also be used more! Both are delicious. Lovely memory of Duke and your grandpa and Nona; Duke sounds amazing and larger than life (Super Duke!). Hopefully your beautiful memories made this scrumptious stewed quail all that more enjoyable. Have a great day, John!

    Like

    • Hi, Shanna! Yes, we did enjoy. it and Duke really was something. My family almost alway used Pecorino Romano exclusively. As for marjoram, it is used more often in Marche, where the Bartolini are from, than anywhere else in Italy. We use it very often in place of oregano. I much prefer marjoram, finding it a bit milder than oregano. Hope you have a great weekend!

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  40. I believe Duke came from Cooks farm. I remember splitting her beak with my fingers to feed her bread dipped in water and giving her water with an eye dropper when she was a baby.

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  41. I bought quails, first because of you, second because of “Like Water for Chocolate.” Cooked them tonight. Was so-so. My mistake? Didn’t read your recipe first about over browning. Thankfully, I bought 6 and used only 3. But they’re so small, I had no idea.

    Duke reminds me of my pet rooster who would play with my dog. The dog was actually quite scared of the rooster, believe it or not. One day it flew over to the other side (neighbor’s) and was never heard again. So now you know the answer to that question “Why did the chicken (or rooster in this case) cross the road? It shouldn’t, it’ll end up in a stew.” True story! 🙂

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    • Sorry things didn’t go well for you. Over-browning will dry them out fairly quickly. Pigeons are a bit larger but not that much and they can be over-browned quickly, too. I’ve a pack of 6, too, and am saving them for my return trip to Zia. She enjoyed these so much that I’d love to treat her again.
      Birds are remarkable creatures and it sounds like your rooster was another one. I cannot believe your neighbors had the nerve to “dispatch” your pet. With 6 of us kids in the two-flat, I doubt any neighbor would have dared such a thing with any of our menagerie. We would have driven the person crazy. Actually, it’s a wonder that we didn’t under normal situations. 🙂

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  42. I haven’t had quail in a while, my mother used to make it but I have never tried it myself. It looks totally delicious. I also love the story about Duke. I used to have a pet duck in Brazil when I was very young. He followed me everywhere and it was the funniest thing!

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    • It’s been a joy reading everyone’s pet stories. You raised a duck, another had a rooster, and still another a chicken. Birds are surprisingly smart and do make wonderful pets. I bet your duck, much like our Duke, was met with more than a few raised eyebrows. 🙂

      Like

  43. What an absolutely amazing tale John – maybe Duke was The Holy Ghost in disguise…following your grandparents to church! I love that she rode on the bonnet of the car turning whatever car your grandpa had into a Rolls Royce 🙂 My cat used to run to meet me at the station but I’ve never heard of a pigeon being so tame. I smiled again at the dogs on the farm…how unlucky they were playing in the fields whenever you arrived 😉 Another stunning recipe. I never think to cook quail very often as I find plain old roasting can sometimes be a bit hit and miss and you end up with dry meat. Cooked like this sounds fantastic…lots of gorgeous ragu to slurp on and wipe your plate clean with the bread!

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    • Thanks, Tanya. I smile just about the entire time I wrote this post, remembering Duke and how everyone else responded to our pet pigeon. Too funny. Grandpa had a way with these creatures. Long before I was born, he took in a baby crow and that bird was supposed to be smarter and better trained than Duke. Imagine that!
      This was our first time preparing quail and, small as they are, I cannot imagine trying to grill them. I’m no grill master and this is one bird I wouldn’t put near a grill. I did enjoy them cooked in umido, though, and look forward to having them again. They really did remind me of those pigeon dinners of years ago. And, yes, I wouldn’t serve this dish unless there was a nice chunk of to be served with it. 🙂

      Like

    • Thank you, Christina. I did enjoy quail cooked this way, as did my Zia. Duke really was special and it was a sad day for all of us when she didn’t return home. Unbelievable how big a part a pigeon played in our lives back then.

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  44. I have had to unfollow and follow you again, it seems you fell off my feed. Sorry to be late. I have never eaten quail,(though I have Lots of fat pigeons) and this sauce looks delicious. I am going to pop over and look at the passatini too, it might be just the thing for dinner tonight! We have to go to town to get supplies so something simple but tasty would be good..I am deeply bored with my cooking at the moment.. take care.. c

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    • I noticed your unfollow/follow and hope it works. If Grandpa were alive today, he would insist I take him to your farm. He loved farms. Once he visited you, it would only be a matter of time before he’d be asking about the pigeons …
      Passatini is such a great soup, Celi, and easy to make. Most of us have the ingredients in our pantries, so, there’s no last minute run to a store for some exotic spice or herb. I hope you did make and enjoyed it.

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  45. John, love the story about Duke. I too had a pigeon, two actually. Stan and Ollie, although they had offspring so I feel one or the other name inappropriate. I came out one day to find only feathers and an open cage in the yard. Assume a neighborhood cat stopped by to say hello. This looks delicious. I’ve only had it once, not prepared this way. Very delicate and yummy. Susie

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    • Pigeon lovers unite! So may have related pet bird stories and I’m glad to find another with pigeons, Suzie. We never caged Duke, unless it was terribly cold in Winter and we brought her inside overnight. Realistically, we think that fateful night that she roosted someplace she shouldn’t have and was a meal for some animal. She was too trusting for her own good.
      We did enjoy this meal. It was a trip back to meals served 50 years ago. That’s a wonderful thing about resurrecting these recipes. They link us to a wonderful time in our lives.

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    • Thanks, Dave. Never-ending winter, is right. I’ll be spending today indoors, again. My front garden doesn’t get much light and is buried under at least 2 feet of snow. Those crocus will be blooming on the 4th of July — if they bloom at all. 🙂

      Like

  46. Pingback: Quayles and Potatoe | The Novice Gardener

  47. Beautiful story John, so vivid and beautifully told. I can picture Duke, ne Duchess, and feel the bonding. So sad she never came back…..

    I know I have eaten pigeon, I have heard my parents say so, but I don’t remember eating them, or have any recollection of the taste. What I do remember seeing lots and lots of pigeons in the attic of my grandparents house, though the numbers dwindled to zero as the years went by for reasons unknown….

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    • Thanks, Minnie. Yes, it was sad when Duke failed to return but how lucky were we to have that pet in the first place? She was remarkable!
      I barely remember the taste of pigeon, it was so long ago. These quail did remind me of those long-forgotten flavors. Perhaps your Grandparents’ vanishing pigeons all went to live with our dogs on that farm. 😉

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  48. I love your story about Duke. We have some kind of similar story going on right here in HK. I have a hawk that loves to fly in a perch on the side of my balcony. His mere size is scary. His wing span is huge. He is one big bird and we are not on talking terms at the moment as I have to shoo him away anytime I want to cook on my grill on the balcony. If my hawk gets too close I can always threaten him that I going to be making Stewed “Hawk”! Great little recipe and lots of delicious flavors. Wishing you a super day.

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    • Hi, BAM! I dunno. As much as like birds, something as large as a hawk on my balcony would make me think twice about going out there, Their talons are quite sharp and their beak is strong. I’ll stick with pigeons and my Lucy, though she’s drawn blood on my hands and fingers a number of times. You don’t want to make her angry. 🙂
      Have a great week, BAM!

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      • Bouno Sera John! Our hawk does kind of give me the creeps. Maybe she can find some other balcony to hang out on. She is hunting in the ocean below. Personally, if she does not mind her P’s and Q’s she is going to be participating in a very nice relocation package to the New Territories…or her talons are going to end up in somebodies Chinese Hot pot. Have a super day.

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  49. What a wonderful story, John. I immediately wondered if this was why you had Lucy, but then saw in the comments that it was. I wonder what happened to Duke? Maybe she met a fella and was swept off into the night! Your grandpa was definitely an animal whisperer. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Betsy. Duke was quite tame and she may not have been too careful choosing a roost for the night. Someone or some thing may have taken advantage. We’ll never know but we younger kids checked the skies for weeks after, thinking she’d suddenly appear.

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  50. I love your stories, John, thank you for sharing them with us! I hope Duke was happy wherever she ended up! Your quail dish looks delicious, and we all have to make choices in keeping with our consciences – I’m just sorry that the pigeon supplier couldn’t manage his birds in a more humane way! xx

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    • Thanks, Celia. I’m glad you enjoy these stories from my youth. It’s a great exercise writing them down. It helps me to remember more details. Yes, it was a disappointment to see them handle the pigeons so harshly. It was just so unnecessary. That’s OK. The quail tasted wonderful and even met with Zia’s approval. That’s good enough for me! 🙂

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  51. Pingback: Why You’ll Never Watch the Dandyknife Cooking Show | Stolon Kisses

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