“I am not eating roadkill,” Martin, my brother proclaimed.
“It wasn’t run over, just bounced off a windshield probably. And it was still warm when I found it,” I reasoned.
“You mean it’s not even your roadkill? That’s even worse. Get that thing away from me.”
I delighted in his disgust and was now taunting him with the partridge I’d picked up on the side of Route 192, inching it closer and closer to him, as if we were kids again.
Though Martin was my older brother, I was the wildly outdoorsy one. We were both in our 30s now, back home in Machias for Thanksgiving.
On my drive home, I spied the birdlike body on the shoulder. It didn’t look smooshed, but I was unsure whether to turn around and investigate. Eventually curiosity got the best of me and I pulled a U-turn on the quiet, dilapidated county road.
Sure enough, it was a partridge. It was in good shape, well, besides being dead. It had not been run over, and was still warm, indicating it hadn’t been dead long.
I picked it up by one leg and tossed it on the back seat of my Corolla, next to Argos, my Brittany, who was sleeping in his crate. Upon smelling the prized game bird we often hunt, he roused and began sniffing incessantly. I thought about what he must be thinking, “What the heck, Mom went hunting without me?!” I was amused with myself the rest of the drive home.
Ruffed grouse, commonly called partridge in Maine, is food for the Gods. It tastes like the most tender chicken, like the veal version of chicken. I prefer it over bacon and ribeye and the fact that it was roadkill was not going to stop me from eating it.
When Argos and I arrived home 20 minutes later, I tossed the grouse on the lawn and had him retrieve it; might as well do some training, right?
After I was satisfied with Argos’s fetch, I checked the bird’s crop, a pocket in its neck where it holds undigested food. I do this with every turkey and partridge, because I find it interesting to see what the bird had been eating. This one had a crop full of beechnuts and poplar buds.
I made quick work of cleaning the bird by stepping on each wing and pulling up on the feet. This left me holding the guts and insides, while the breast meat and wings remained on the ground.
I inspected the breast meat for any bird shot, not expecting to find any, but wanted to confirm that it hadn’t been shot. The breast meat was perfect.
I showed Martin the breast meat now that it looked like meat you buy at the store, but he was not swayed.
My mom grew up in Kentucky; her parents once met the real KFC Colonel himself. My uncle still lives in Kentucky and owns a franchise of KFC. I searched through my mom’s spice cabinet over the stove in search of the famed mix of 11 herbs and spices she had brought back from her recent visit to the Bluegrass State.
I sliced the meat into pieces and waited for the cast iron skillet to heat up. I soaked the pieces in an egg wash, then into flour mixed with the secret spices, plus parmesan cheese. When the oil began to dance, I added the nuggets to the pan. Though one grouse isn’t much meat, my parents and I enjoyed it immensely. The golden-brown nuggets were juicy and melted in our mouths. It was the perfect appetizer to kick off that year’s Thanksgiving holiday. Even Argos got a piece.
As for Martin? He stood resolutely by his belief that roadkill was not for eating.
Christi Holmes is a Registered Maine Guide and Appalachian Trail thru hiker. Christi is the founder of Maine Women Hunters and works as a design engineer. She lives in Gray. @christiholmes on Instagram. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.