Saturday, February 10, 2007

Seagulls and Skordalia with Roasted Pickled Beets

I went out for Greek food today, and got as an appetizer one of my favorite Greek dishes -- Skordalia with Roasted Beets. My friend and I each had appetizers and a lunch. So there were leftovers. On the way home, I pulled over to a parking lot that overlooks the ocean and did some birdwatching.

This is a tidepool area, where a river meets the ocean, so the places with fresh water were iced over, and there were crowds of various birds hanging out and doing what birds do. In this case, they were seagulls, and what they do is cruise for, and then fight for, food.

Seagulls are an amateur birdwatcher's misery. There are a zillion kinds of them. The mature male version of one kind of gull can look exactly like the immature female version of another. One kind of gull alone can have several different sorts of plumage depending on his or her age and the season. I have developed a stock answer when someone asks "What kind of gull is that?" My answer is "I do not care, because if I did I would go crazy."

What, you may ask at this point, does this have to do with Skordalia and Roasted Pickled Beets? That detail is on its way. Bear with me.

Gulls are beggars of the worst order. They circle overhead and do not ask for food, they yell for it. In the movie, "Finding Nemo" the cartoonist aptly depicts them as all saying "Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine" at the same time as they all divebomb a crumb.

But, today was a chilly day -- just a bit above freezing, and I do have a soft spot in my heart for birds, so I reached into my leftover bag and got out the pita bread -- broke it into small pieces and tossed it out of my car window. The wind was strong, and the pieces blew back at me, landing very near the car.

What ensued was almost a scene from Hitchcok's film, "The Birds". Swooping and swarming, the gulls dove at my car and the nearby pita scraps as though they were prospectors who had just discovered gold.

Within moments the bread was gone, and the birds were now standing around my car, looking at me, or hovering near my window, waiting for the next handout. All I had left were roasted pickled beets and Skordalia. What the hell. I dumped them out of the window and quickly moved my car. I parked a few spaces away and watched a horde of frantic birds gulping down the garlicky beet and potato mixture. They loved them!

Maybe it was greed, or maybe genuine hunger -- it is often so hard to tell the two apart. But my leftovers are now with the gulls.

I may be the only person in the world today who is personally responsible for giving a half dozen gulls garlic breath.

It may not be a grand accomplishment, but it is a singular one.

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