This morning this ruffed grouse hurled itself against our dining room window, fell fifteen feet to the ground, and died in my hands. I buried it by the woodpile, offering a little prayer. But then I thought better of this and dug it up.

It's now in my refrigerator, and we plan to eat it. Rebecca Gray, wild foods editor of the newest Joy of Cooking—and also, by happy circumstance, a coworker and neighbor—offered guidance and advice.

First, the grouse should rest a day in the cold of the fridge. This mimics the old-world practice of hanging fowl, which tenderizes the meat and adds flavor. Then, I should "breast-out" the bird, cutting each breast away from the breastbone and ribs. The breast meat is the tastiest part of the bird, and breasting-out is easily done by someone like me who's never dressed a fowl. Finally, I should cook the breasts in a quick pan-sauté, and Rebecca suggested a traditional fruit accompaniment like wild grape or cranberry compote stewed in port.

I find the prospect of eating this grouse both horrifying and exciting. I've never eaten wild fowl, nor ever experienced an animal dying in my hands one day to be consumed the next. Both, of course, are two of the most natural things in the world.

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