Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Sept 2015   Allegro ma non troppo #18  (original pub. date, Lion Magazine, 1991)

A Deed Most Fowl

The Emu, the ostrich-like flightless bird featured on Australia's national emblem, will be offered on the menu of that nation's international airline. Qantas airline says that the bird, which can stand six feet tall, has twenty times less cholesterol than beef. It will be offered either smoked or braised with garlic and ginger.

I'm stunned. I always thought that Australia's national emblem was a Foster's beer can, or maybe a kangaroo or one of those exotic whatsits mentioned in Waltzing Matilda, like a billabong or jumpbuck. But now that I know, I say, shame!  What is this?! A proud nation serving up its national emblem next to the inflight cashews?! "Care for a cocktail, sir? And may we offer you a delightfully charred piece of our six-foot-tall flightless national bird? Flightless? Oh, that's just a figure of speech, sir. The captain assures us that everything will be fine if we can just get the engines restarted. Here, eat the bird."

It's not clear to me, by the way, exactly how the emu (pronounced, EM-you, or em-YOU, or ANY-thing) rates as the national emblem Down Under. I mean, it's not even on their flag, a banner graced with a Union Jack and a representation of the constellation known as the Southern Cross. In fact, there are not an awful lot of flags with edibles on them, at all. I see that Albania's banner bears a double eagle. That's right, an eagle with two heads, a Siamese eagle, a genetic mutation brewed up by mad Dr. Albaniastein in his secret Balkan hideaway and that escaped when the lightning in the lab went out, but Albania would not be caught dead peddling the bird to passengers even in tourist class, even if Albania had an airline. Or even an airplane.

The only true delicacy I see on flags in my almanac is the Canadian Maple Leaf. Canada's very own answer to Homer, Robert Service, tells us: "There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold;/ Arctic trails have their secret tales which would make the blood run cold." Certainly, Maple Leaf salads tossed up at you on Air Canada would rate pretty high on anyone's list of hemocoolants, but that hasn't happened yet, though I did find a leaf-like thing floating in a styrofoam cup of coffee on a commuter flight from Whitehorse to Edmonton once. I guess we're talking about non-flag national emblems, here. But, even then, you don't see Pan American serving the North American bald eagle on flights. As a matter of fact, you don't see Pan Am serving much of anything on flights these days —they went broke. But that's beside the point, which wasand I know you're beginning to wonder why do they call them "bald eagles"? I have lots of friends with no hair and no one calls them "bald eagles". I did real good in biology and I got news for you: birds aren't supposed to have no hair; it's no feathers they're not supposed to have! But, still, passing out drumsticks of this overanthropomorphized symbol of Uncle Sam to passengers would not sit well with them, even if they were sitting well enough to be able to see the inflight movie, Alfred Hitchcock's ornithological epic, Birds.

And what about Aeroflot? That's the ex-Soviet airline, which has changed its name to Aeroflot, the Ex-Soviet Airline. The symbol of Russia is the bear. Your average Russian bear is seven hundred pounds of cuddle when he's hibernating. When he wakes up and especially if it's you who has just rung his snooze alarmhe is very bad news. I mean, these guys tear tree trunks apart just for toothpicks to get those irritating bits of tiger out from between their teeth. Only a race of people with the patience to read Dosteyevsky, or maybe it just beats being totally unemployed, would take the time to train bears to put up with the truly unbearable, such as riding unicycles, balancing on balls and all those other dumb stunts bears have to do in Russian circuses just for the off-chance to gnaw on an acrobat or clown. Notice, however, that bears are not served as meals on Aeroflot. I have it on good authority that you never ever see anything even remotely resembling a bear on a Russian plane unless you want to count the stewardesses, but then, especially braised with garlic and ginger, you're talking awesome cholesterol, so I'd go straight to the salad if I were you. See if they have maple leaf.

Other symbols? The British bulldog? What can I tell you. The last time I flew British Airways, needless to say, I didn't ask for a doggie-bag. Take along some carrot sticks, just in case. Also, for the longest time I was under the impression that the symbol of South Africa was the Reebok, until someone pointed out to me that I was probably thinking of the Springbok, "a graceful gazelle noted for its ability to jump straight up in the air". It may be, however, that "Reebok" is the original Afrikaans word for "a graceful gazelle noted for its ability to jump straight up in the air with tennis shoes". I am withholding judgment until I see what they give you to eat on South African Airlines.

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