Friday, 3 April 2009

A bird in the hand

Spurwinged geese, which can weigh up to 10kg and have a wingspan of 1.8 metres, are the largest waterfowl gamebirds in South Africa. They’re considered by hunters to be excellent trophy birds not only for their impressive size but also because they’re very alert and clever, and are hard to bring down.

I’m not a hunting fan by any stretch of the imagination, but many of the farmers who live in these parts are. Most of them hunt for the pot (rather than for trophies), but when a friend of my Dad’s, Frikkie, managed to kill a spurwinged goose, he didn’t know what to do with it. Here’s how my Dad tells it.

Frikkie is the local fixer. He knows a little about a lot of things. He can fix a leaking roof in the winter and an airconditioning unit when the temperature’s 42°C in the shade. And there are some who say that Frikkie, who wears a sleeveless T-shirt that shows off his ‘Ons vir you’ tattoo of the Voortrekker monument, has also been known to fix a few bored housewives, merry widows and adventurous divorcees – sort of leg-overtime at no extra charge.

When he’s not watching the Boland Kavaliers, Frikkie’s idea of relaxation is to get in his bakkie and hare off into the veld where he has a plot and a pondokkie that belonged to his great-grandfather. No electricity or piped water here; just candles, storm lanterns, a big fire and stream water so cold it takes the enamel off your teeth.

There, Frikkie and his mates do some shooting. Mostly they go after gamebirds – guineafowl, quail, francolin; enough for the pot, to go with the braai steak and wors and mealies. And then they break out the brandy and Coke and talk a lot of skinder and kak as they feed the fire with mopane logs and the sparks swirl so high they seem to be reaching for the stars.

After one of these forays, Frikkie turned up at my house. ‘Hey, colonial boy,’ he said. ‘I’m back from the veld and I’ve got a present for you.’

I could see he was weaving just a little as he climbed from his bakkie and, over my garden fence, handed me what seemed like a small, dead ostrich.

‘What’s this?’ I asked.

‘It’s a spurwinged goose,’ Frikkie slurred. ‘Me and my mates had an argument and I said if anyone could cook a spurwinged goose, it’s die ou rooinek. That’s you.’

Maybe he'd shot it by mistake but he certainly didn’t know what the hell to do with it.

I plucked it, trimmed it and cleaned it until it was looking like a not-very-pretty, oversized turkey. For a day I hung it in a branch of the camphor tree outside my cottage. Then I marinated it for another day in buttermilk, in the largest potjie-pot I could find.

I invited Frikkie and his wife to dinner and Frikkie’s wife said that it was the best thing I could have done. Frikkie had Klapmuts Guts (the local version of Delhi Belly) for two days and she doubted he’d set his sights on spurwinged geese again.

But Frikkie had the last word. ‘The problem is you didn’t do it the Afrikaner way,’ he told me. ‘You get the goose and put it in the potjie with a big, smooth stone. Then you cook it and cook it. Then you throw away the goose and eat the stone.’

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1 comment:

meggie said...

We once had a 'wild turkey' with the same problem.