A Pleasant Pheasant

A belated Merry Christmas to the blogosphere!  I hope Santa was good to one and all.  And if not, I know where he’s been hiding…

This week, I have made every attempt to put (most of) my neuroses aside in exchange for a happy holiday season, and thus far, I have succeeded.  So before New Year’s rears its glitter-studded head, and with it arrives all of the usual contemplation and critical self-assessment, I thought I’d share a proud and recent realization:

I, Bridget O’Malley, can cook a pheasant.

This Christmas, it was just me, my husband, and our dog — an intimate gathering that encouraged me to try a little something new.  Having already managed a 20-pound turkey for a larger Thanksgiving feast, I knew I was pushing my luck, but here’s how I got it done.

Recipe For A Delicious Christmas Pheasant


  1. One 2.84 lb. pheasant
  2. An orange
  3. Stock from a lesser bird like chicken
  4. Bacon
  5. Salt, pepper, and sage
  6. If you remember nothing else, remember butter.


First off, wake up at the crack of dawn to Google “How To Cook A Pheasant.”

(Confession: I did not wake up at dawn, but my husband did, the result of which is this beautiful shot of the Chicago skyline.  I did, however, conduct the aforementioned Google search).

When your search produces confusing and intimidating results, call your handsome chef brother-in-law in London and ask him how to cook a pheasant.

(Thanks for answering my call, brother-in-law).

He will rattle off a long list of instructions, some of them realistic (“Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.”) and some of them wildly beyond your capabilities (“Don’t forget to remove the wishbone.”).  For the most part, it will sound possible.  At this point, you will feel confident enough to go through with it.

Wash the pheasant, awkwardly apologizing for what is about to happen.  Rub butter and spices underneath its skin.  If you are feeling crafty, stick an orange in it.  Heat oil in a pan and brown the bird on all sides.  Place bacon strips over it.  Pour some broth in the bottom of the pan.  Cook it in an oven for roughly 35 minutes, basting every so often.  When you take it out, it will look something like this:

Do not be surprised.  Your husband, or someone else who has actually eaten pheasant before, will assure you that’s how it should look.

Throw the bacon out and wrap the bird upside down in foil.  Let it sit for ten minutes.  In the meantime, take the following precautions.

  • Set the table with crystal and china to create a pleasing ambiance that will elevate the result. (For us, it was all of the wedding presents we had never before used).
  • Pour good wine to help make however it turned out all the better.  (For us, it was a 2008 Margaux).
  • Plate up some trusty side dishes to hedge your bet that something on the plate will be edible.  (For us, it was roasted fingerling potatoes, brussels sprouts, and the almighty stuffing).

Remove the pheasant from the foil, carve it, and take your seat at the table, masking any uncertainty with a cautiously optimistic smile.

Voila.  A delightfully pleasant pheasant, from my table to yours.

— Bridget

Lost Souls and Fishbowls

It is spring of 2001, also known as the year I lived in Europe. We are in Italy with our professor for what is essentially the world’s greatest field trip. One morning, in Rome, we wake up early to catch a bus to Vatican City. We line up outside the doors of the Vatican and await instructions from our professor. They are as follows: When the doors open, we pay our admission and make a mad dash, ignoring every sculpture or painting along the way, directly to the Sistine Chapel. If we get there fast enough, he promises, we will have a moment alone, in the chapel, all to ourselves.

Now, I don’t necessarily go in for all that religious mumbo jumbo, and I wasn’t desperate for an A on my Renaissance art essay, but I do love a healthy competition, so I take my professor’s advice to heart. Upon entrance to the museum, we race along the corridors, following signs to the Cappella Sistina. The running, mixed with the almost-intentionally confusing sign placement, blended with anticipation and a hint of absurdity, makes us laugh, somewhat ashamed of the pure joy in what we are doing. As we near the chapel entrance, I find that several of us are singing – Pink Floyd, for some reason. I don’t ask questions – it just feels right, in the same way that it feels right to stop when we enter the chapel.

Inside, we exchange our song for silence, our unity for solitude, and we wander the hushed room, our necks craned upward. Standing beneath the most perfect space between two objects, I see my entire existence in the nothingness between man’s outstretched hand and God’s… It is a memory that I can close my eyes today and see as vividly, and I am so grateful for my professor’s encouragement to go out and get ourselves that moment. In many ways, I see life as a series of such unique moments — I spend my life racing down corridors towards the next great thing, laughing and singing and struggling to catch my breath.

A Zig and A Zag

As I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend was spent in Los Angeles and included a trip to the Getty on a sunny afternoon (also known as “every day in LA“). During our visit, we took the garden tour, and perhaps I was particularly prone to drinking the Kool-Aid that day, but several of the tour stories stuck with me… including this one about the garden walk pictured above. The idea behind it is like so: the artist was tasked with creating a garden walk that was accessible to everyone. The walk is set on a fairly steep incline, so a straight path would have been too treacherous for many who dared traverse it. Instead, the artist designed a transecting path that softened the blow of the hill and at the same time created something special – a unique perspective and singular experience at every turning point. (Man, I hope I did my docent right with that synopsis).

I didn’t have to think long to uncover the metaphor in that. Very often I wish things were easier – I wish that life was more simple, that my direction was clear, that the secret of success was straightforward and accessible. At the same time… if you get there too fast, you done gone and missed the beauty all around you. An indirect path enables realization at every turn and forces you to slow down and take your surroundings for what they’re worth. I want very badly to trust my docent in that sacred truth, and I will myself to recall that garden walk when I sense I am lost along the way.

— Bridget