A pleasant winter walk goes a-fowl

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Usually at this time of year, I write a column about what I did during the Super Bowl, which is always something other than watching it.

I didn't watch it this year either. I did watch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, which was pointless and overcommercialized -- almost as much so as the Super Bowl. At least the Puppy Bowl was outrageously cute and had a kitten halftime show that I'm pretty confident wasn't lip-synced. Also hedgehogs.

Yeah. Hedgehogs. Real hedgehogs, not computer-generated.

After the Puppy Bowl and a few household chores, I took my dog out for his evening walk. It was snowing, so I smeared Musher's Secret into his paws to protect them from ice balls and rock salt and we floated out into the wonderland that is the city under a blanket of frozen precip.

It was weirdly quiet. The city was muffled in snow, hushed and empty with almost nobody out ... you could actually hear wind and the tolling of a distant church bell, because the usual ambient urban roar of passing cars and idling buses and people swearing at each other was gone. Ghost town. Because it's Sunday? Because it's snowing? And then I remembered: The game is on.

So Buster and I had the North Side to ourselves, and we were ambling along companionably until suddenly he darted his snout into the powder and came out with the end of a chicken wing bone protruding from his mouth.

I swooped down to pull it out, as I always do. He's so quick, you know, it's hard for me to anticipate when he'll dive and hard to pull it out fast enough when the crunching begins. Cooked chicken bones are extremely dangerous and delicious for dogs to eat, and I have to lurch down and try to snatch one out of his mouth approximately 38 times a day.

The professional picnickers on Allegheny Commons are huge consumers of chicken wings, but they have terrible aim when throwing the bones into the numerous trash cans.

This is why I was less than heartbroken to hear that the nation was threatened with a shortage of chicken wings.

There was talk there might not be enough for Super Bowl Sunday; this might have resulted in the president having to authorize dipping into America's strategic chicken wing reserves, which should be deployed only in times of dire crisis or severe dumping into our markets of cheap foreign buffalo sauce.

While prices did go up -- I don't know if you noticed -- there was no actual shortage last weekend. The National Chicken Council was quoted as saying "Bok bok bokbugok" -- no wait, sorry, the Chicken Council, through a translator, estimated that Americans would eat 1.23 billion wings over Super Bowl weekend. So is there a backlog of 615 million wingless chicken carcasses frozen in a warehouse somewhere?

We're a little tight on our chicken (wing) supply this year because of the big drought. (Remember the drought?) Chickens need to eat, too, and their food was scarcer and more expensive. Not exactly chicken feed, ironically.

So we're a little short, but not alarmingly so. There will be no wing rationing, no lines around the block at supermarkets for the greasy, gristly, bony, barely edible treats we love so much as a delivery mechanism for ranch dressing.

And let us rejoice and be glad, because if they had gotten really rare and expensive, we'd have to start coming up with other unappealing animal parts to deep fry or slather with sauce.

Four-alarm pig snouts? A basket of cow ears? A dozen original-recipe eggshells?

Just do me a favor. Fight the urge to bread that hedgehog.


Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: sambennett412@gmail.com.


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