This is the story about a pigeon that thought she was a guinea pig.
About 6 months ago my mom’s next-door neighbor, Michael, opened his office door to find a wonky, tiny baby bird at his feet. This was a curious little nestling as it had, rather than feathers - yellow, pubic-like hairs and a distorted beak. Presuming she had fallen from her nest prematurely, rendering her tainted and unwanted by her parents, Michael took her home with him.
Michael, his 9 year-old daughter, Ruby, and my mom were utterly perplexed as to what type of bird has no feathers, but rather, hair and such a bizarre look to it. Ruby thought it was a Dodo bird. After some research they realized she was actually a baby pigeon. You see pigeons don’t actually leave their parents until they are fully grown. During their first week of life baby pigeons are fed a high-fat, high-protein diet of crop milk produced by both parents. They grow very fast.
In the case of domestic/feral pigeons, they walk well at about 18 days of age and start exercising their wings about a week later. But because they have been regularly fed by the adults and haven't done much exercising, the babies are often bigger than their parents by the time they start to fly, which is on average 30 to 32 days after hatching.
So Ruby named her Pigeon-y and Michael was her mother.
As Pigeon-y grew into adulthood she became recognizable as a pigeon and had one beautiful, little turquoise spot on her sternum (you can see it in the above photo). Michael would cradle Pigeon-y in his hands and gently thrust her into the air to try to teach her to fly. She would flap her wings wildly and plop back into his hands. Then one day she flew about 10 yards. Eventually she would circle the yard about once a day but she never, ever left the property again.
Ruby has 2 guinea pigs that live in a large, open pen in the front yard during the day and in a crate, inside at night. Pigeon-y’s days were spent in the pen with the guinea pigs, and at night in a little cardboard box in the house.
After some time everyone began to realize that Pigeon-y thought she was a guinea pig. She would play with them, chase them, and protect them. In fact, if other birds came close Pigeon-y would scare them away. The 2 guinea pigs liked to cram into a small plastic dome, which Pigeon-y would perch on top of. Then the guinea pigs would walk around in the dome, causing it to move across the pen with Pigeon-y on top – like she was on a float in a parade.
Pigeon-y even started sleeping in the cage at night with the guinea pigs and decided she preferred their food and grass to her bird seed.
And Pigeon-y loved her mother, Michael. She would perch on top of his shoulder or head as proud as a peacock.
When Michael would go out of town my mom watched over the guinea pigs and Pigeon-y. She was in awe of this bird’s moxie and spirit. Pigeon-y became a beacon, a port in the storm for my mom. She embodied so much courage, strength and beauty. Her cooing sounds were so rich, smooth and delicate, my mom wanted to just swallow them. Pigeon-y sang the song of the canyon.
Over the past few months I have heard many tales of Pigeon-y’s adventures and antics from my mother, told with a song in her voice and a twinkle in her eye. I have even watched, in awe, Pigeon-y playing with and protecting her guinea pigs. And you have to admit it’s a pretty amazing story that speaks volumes about determination and love across species.
As you all know, we live in the canyon, which is where the wild things are. Sadly, a couple of nights ago, Pigeon-y was taken from her family, her guinea pigs and her yard by, what we believe to be, a hawk. These things happen. But with the holidays upon us, I felt it apt to share with you the story of one abandoned pigeon that found her friends and family and whose resilience, character, serenity and magnificence changed a number of lives forever.
Here we have a soup that has a surprising amount of delicate yet bold flavors, and elements that I never would have thought would have complimented each other in such symphonic unison. It starts out thick and hearty, but somehow finishes wispy and soft – almost ethereal.
It is vegetarian.
Buttermilk Corn Soup with Curry & Mint
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cups yellow corn kernels
2 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 tsp hot curry
1/2 tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan sauté shallot in butter until translucent (approximately 5-7 minutes. Add corn and mix to coat corn with shallots and butter. Add vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add dried mint, curry, coriander and cumin. Let simmer to allow flavors to marry.
Blend using an immersion wand.
Add buttermilk, fresh mint and salt & pepper to taste. Cook down for about 30 minutes on low heat.
Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and serve.