By Chris Eberhart:
While sitting at my desk writing yesterday a telltale dull thump sounded through the house. I jumped up and walked over to the dining room window to find natural print on the glass that could almost be considered artful. A beak and head and two wings were silhouetted in a ring of sunlight. Stepping out on the porch I looked down and found a dead sparrow in the driveway. Immediately I ran out and picked that little bird up, before any neighborhood cats could get it. Mine all mine! Moving over to the shed I quickly breasted the sparrow and popped the legs off.
I don’t actively hunt sparrows, but usually eat about twenty of them a year. You see, the neighbor lady is quite the bird watcher and probably puts out a ton of bird seed in her feeders every year. There are literally hundreds of sparrows flying around all the time, among other song birds. This local overabundance of birds hasn’t gone unnoticed by the local predator population. House cats are always lurking in the bushes waiting to pounce, to my dismay. House cats certainly aren’t on my list of most favorite animals. More interesting are the Kestrels or, as they are also known, sparrow hawks. They like to perch out around the edges in trees, and then literally drop in out of nowhere to pick up a quick lunch. I have watched these little avian predators snap up sparrows literally within yards of kids playing, right at the neighbors feeders. Hunting goes on all around us, all the time. Often when the hawks swoop in the sparrows panic, and this is usually when they fly into my windows.
Though I will eat just about any animal, I never thought about eating sparrows until I read Steven Rinella’s book “The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine” several years ago. Steven serves up sparrows in his quest for great food. If you haven’t read his book you should. I wasn’t even finished with the book before the first sparrow found its demise at my house. I had to try it. They taste fantastic, and remind me of prairie grouse, if you need a comparison. I like to save up a few sparrows for special occasions. They make super appetizers to get a nice dinner started. Generally, my guests have never eaten sparrow, so it’s a good way to get them warmed up to new food, and start some interesting conversation.
Cooking them is as simple as it gets, and they take about a minute to prepare. Just drop the breasts and legs in a pan with some butter and fry for about thirty seconds. I like to leave the feet on the legs, so people realize what they are eating. The best part is that you eat the entire leg, bones and all. The feet are a little chewy though. Serve with a contrast of light fruit.