While many across America are preparing to eat Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday, some of us in South Beach are honoring another bird, Mr. Clucky . To those of us who know him, Mr. Clucky is more than a rooster. He has been Miami's spokesfowl, a bird who stands for peace, stewardship of the earth and animal compassion. PETA loves him. So does EarthSave. But no one has loved him more than his owner, Mark Buckley.
Buckley first came across the rooster as an abandoned fowl, possibly a Santeria escapee, no more than a pile of feathers in the bushes. Buckley took him in and nursed him back to health. Soon the two were South Beach icons (hey, on South Beach, this is possible), frequently seen out and about on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive. Perched on the handlebars of Buckley's bicycle, Mr. Clucky's feathers immaculate, his head high, his crowing a veritable trumpet, his demeanor lordly but kind. As roosters go, he's had a pretty good life. He has his own website, FaceBook page and a loyal fan base, which is more than many of us can say.
But he's known mankind's darker nature. Two years ago, Mr. Clucky faced eviction from the apartment he shared with his owner and Buckley himself was slapped with a $50-a-day fine for harboring poultry in a no-fowl zone. Both grew ill from stress.
Buckley and Mr. Clucky protested. Mr. Clucky was no mere livestock, but a beloved pet, a citified one at that. It was a case of man against bird. The two appeared on CBS national news, the Today Show and on Huffington Post. South Beach locals held candlelight vigils to save Mr. Clucky. At last, public outcry overturned the decision -- Mr. Clucky could stay. He could live life the way he enjoyed it -- strolling along the beach, hanging with his friends, sipping bottled water. He's a South Beach bird, all right. But for Buckley, their friendship is profound. "Clucky's the best friend I've had. Ever," he says.
When you get to know your poultry, it's easy to love it, impossible -- unthinkable -- to eat it. Which brings me back to turkey. Eating Thanksgiving turkey is an American tradition, but why? Especially when commercially bred turkeys are raised in inhumane conditions Mr. Clucky would never tolerate.
You don't have to eat turkey, you can invite one to your party. You can adopt one. If your home town is less accepting of free-range birds than South Beach, you can adopt one virtually through Farm Sanctuary's farmsanctuary.org Adopt-a-Turkey project. Now in its 24th year, Adopt-a-Turkey rescues turkeys and provides educational outreach for a cruelty-free Thanksgiving. Maybe your adopted bird won't get to strut its stuff down Lincoln Road like Mr. Clucky, but it will be placed in a safe and loving environment where it can happily roam the fields and scratch the dirt and won't wind up on anyone's plate.
Questioning beloved traditions makes people uncomfortable. Change, though, starts with questioning, with consciousness. Hopefully, that's where compassion starts, too. Mr. Clucky and his owner didn't beat city hall by just sitting on their tail feathers. Consider how you choose to celebrate the holiday where we give thanks for what we have. Give Mr. Clucky something to crow about.
Turkish Millet With Garden-Fresh Greens
So what is there to eat at Thanksgiving other than turkey? Gracious, darling, where is your imagination? I always found turkey the large and offputting centerpiece I had to reach around to get to the food I wanted. This recipe is full of the fruits and vegetables of the earth, plus millet, a whole grain most people don't know beyond bird food. This main course presents a wonderful combination of warming flavors. And it's from Turkey.
1 cup millet
2-1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (or 1 or 2 dried red peppers, crumbled)
1 big bunch greens (collards, kale, chard, whatever's green and fresh), washed, drained and chopped
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped fine
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses *
1 teaspoon coriander
sea salt and pepper
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Bring broth or water to boil in a large saucepan. Add millet. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until millet absorbs all the liquid.
Fluff millet with a fork and set aside to cool (May be done a day or two before proceeding. Cover and refrigerate millet).
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add chopped onions, sliced garlic and red pepper. Stir for about 8 minutes, or until vegetables are softened and fragrant.
Add chopped greens and dill. Stir until greens are wilted, another 3 to 5 minutes.
Add chopped walnuts, millet and canned tomatoes, stirring gently to keep the millet light. Work in tomato paste and pomegranate molasses. Add coriander and season with salt and pepper.
Recipe may be made ahead two days ahead at this point and heated through just before serving.
Stir in fresh cilantro before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.
* available at middle eastern markets and many gourmet stores