Man vs. mild 

Ranger Rich

I apparently wrote a column a couple weeks ago about hummingbirds, blathering on and on about how the small birds' annual autumn departure from Colorado marks the passing of time and makes me sad.

Sounds like I should have been wearing a dress.

A likely explanation for the touchy-feely column is that I was taking powerful narcotic painkillers for a neck injury, caused by repeatedly slapping myself on the forehead. I do that when I realize that among the people working on the government shutdown and upcoming debt crisis is our own U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a guy who always looks like someone just popped a balloon behind his head.

Anyway, today let's set the record straight: I do indeed like hummingbirds. On a bed of wild rice. With a lemon and parsley sauce. And a nice glass of pinot noir.

Here some of you devoted, longtime readers of this column are saying, "Good Lord, Mitch, only a sick #@%&*@ would eat hummingbirds!" Others are wondering, "Geez, what's it like to eat a hummingbird?"

From my years of experience, I would say this: It's a lot easier on the waistline than whooping crane. And it's tougher than spotted owl but less gamey than bald eagle.

Speaking of our national bird, an actual story in last Friday's Wall Street Journal detailed how those giant green-energy wind turbines have killed at least 85 eagles since 1997. Which explains why you can often find me wandering around a wind farm carrying an enormous Crock-Pot.

Back to the hummingbirds. Another question I get all the time is, "So, uh, how do you catch them?"

You start with a hummingbird feeder, of course, luring them in for a sip of sugary water. Then — and this is important — make sure you have the correct grip on the tennis racket, allowing a seamless transition from a forehand to a backhand. The swing itself involves a swift downward thrust initiated by a rotation of the hips and shoulders.

Technique is important because, as you know, the colorful little birds can flap their wings up to 60 times per second, darting around faster than a tea party Republican searching for a good used cigarette butt in a bowling alley ashtray.

So you put on your tennis shorts, tennis shoes and a tennis sweater to make the hummingbirds relax. Then, when you've swatted a few dozen of them out of the air, pluck their feathers in the kitchen sink. (Tip: Save those feathers! Nothing is warmer than a hummingbird down vest.)

Now it's time to make some dining magic. Let's start with my favorite: hummingbird pot pie. Prepare one cup each of diced potato, onion and celery and a teaspoon of salt. Add the breast meat from a dozen hummingbirds. (You can substitute hummingbird drumsticks but trust me, after dinner you're still going to be hungry.)

Roll the ingredients into a pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Your guests will be amazed, even speechless. Especially after dinner, when you tell them what they've just eaten.

Another favorite is hummingbird Parmesan, which consists of hummingbird breast fillets pounded flat, dipped in egg batter, rolled in breadcrumbs and pan-seared in butter. I've served hummingbird Parm to friends at Super Bowl parties for several years and have never had a single complaint. Although it's possible my phone might ring today.

Other classics include hummingbird enchiladas, sesame hummingbird, hummingbird Marsala, hummingbird cacciatore, Cajun hummingbird and lemon garlic hummingbird.

Other birds are tasty, too. I can't tell you how I look forward to each spring, the buds on the trees and the warming breezes bringing yet another promise of robin piccata.

And my mouth waters at the mere thought of my wife's famous peregrine falcon Florentine. (You think hummingbirds are hard to catch.)

But for my money, nothing beats the taste of those little hummers. As a bonus, the long slender beak makes a fine toothpick.

And, I might add, hummingbirds don't beg for another chance like those whiny, obnoxious parrots.

Rich Tosches (rangerrich@csindy.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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