Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One is Such A Lonely Number

When a  Passenger Pigeon named Martha died at the ripe old age of 29 on September 1st, 1914 at her home (The Cincinnati Zoo), she was stuffed and put on display at the Smithsonian. Martha was the last of her kind in the whole world.

Martha, dead as a doornail
Her fate may have been sealed when she hatched in 1885. By that time, Passenger Pigeons were being hunted at a rate that made it impossible for them to survive. Passenger Pigeons were a species who could only breed in large communities, so not having many thousands of potential suitors on hand disinclined them from getting in the mood for love, no matter how much concerned ornithologists tried to relax them with a nice bit of dinner and candlelight. It is entirely possible then, that Martha died a virgin.

Martha, alive but lonely
Martha’s story is especially poignant because of the rapidity with which her species became extinct — it only took 20 years. Once numbering in the billions, they could not compete with hunters as more and more people moved West, and their communal nature doomed them further by making them so easy to kill en masse.

Recipe from Marion Harland's popular book
Practical and Exhaustive Manual of Cooking and Housekeeping of 1871
that contributed to the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Yes, I can hear you say, but what does all this have to do with that grotesque salad?

Imagine, if you will, that each layer in it represents all of the birds in North America. Look how robust their numbers are! There is no shortage of lettuce, peppers, mushrooms, onions, celery, peas, dressing, cheese and bacon. The lone stuffed olive sitting on top like Sleeping Beauty on her tower of mattresses is stuffed Martha, resplendently and magnificently alone.

Soup, Salad and Sandwich Cookbook, Ideals Publishing Corp., 1981

Also form this book: Frosted Sandwich Loaf, Potty Mouth, Penis Salad

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