I lived in France in the 1990s. There were only 3 television channels; TF1, A2, France 3. Sometimes on France 3, as part of another show, there would be a cooking demonstration by a lady called Maïté. This was way before cooking shows became popular, way before cuisine minceur, way before popular veganism. Maïtéïté cooked old time food from Gascony. There are lots of her videos on YouTube. She relies heavily on meat, wine, armagnac and cream. She never measures quantities, she rarely uses a chopping board but prefers to cut stuff up in her hands Her accent is strong and her delivery verges on anger.

Here is Poule Farcie. It is a joy to watch. I have not been able to track down a poule in San Francisco. It is a hen in English. It is an older bird as distinct from a chicken, which is younger. There are many classic French dishes that need a poule, Poule au Riz, Pot au Feu for example. The bird is simmered for a long time. Today’s chickens would simply fall apart.

Those were the days

I mention Maïté as I have spent a lot of time lately staring out of the window. I have set up a bird feeder and whist checking on birds I also watch YouTube stuff, mainly Maïté.

The feeder was up for about a week before any birds showed up. Then a male Oregon Junco shyly appeared and began to feed. Next day his wife comes too. Notice paler head.

Female. Notice paler head

A couple of days later a Chestnut Backed Chickadee shows up.

He brings his wife along a bit later. They wear unisex clothing.

It is tranquil; the birds do not fight.

Townsends Warbler.

Then a bird that I have never seen shows up – a Pygmy Nuthatch. Everything changes.


Within an hour, 8 of them completely take over. They chase off all the other birds fighting and squabbling incessantly. There cannot be many of these birds around here but within minutes the message of free food echoes around the Nuthatch population and they lay siege.


They swarm around the feeder, gorging and bickering. They empty the feeder twice in 2 days. How can such small birds eat so much?

Watching them is addictive. I have my window open and the feeder is only 3 meters from my Maïté couch. The birds seem unconcerned. A Nuthatch flies into my room but flies out again immediately.

A bit of local color before I return to the main narrative. I visit old friend Ken, who is an architect. He designed the Kavli building at SLAC when I was there and caramba when I got to OIST I found he was the architect for our amazing buildings.

Yay Ken!

He has a house on the coast just near Bean Hollow Beach.

Compensations of age

We eat perfect Lengua Tacos in nearby Pescadero.

James traps a sweet mouse, whom we release in the park.
Birdwatcher at Haight Street Fair last week.
James cooks Paella.
On the way to Gus’ on Haight

Anyway back to the birds, as I mentioned, Nuthatches swarmed the feeder.

Spot the Nuthatch

Just as Maïté is about to eat an Ortolan, a Nuthatch blasts through the window, through my rooms and into the apartment at large. I search but cannot find him, her, them. Immediately, the other Nuthatches disappear from the feeder and have not come back. How do they communicate?

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1 Response to Maïté

  1. virtuallyrachelgmailcom says:

    LOVE your missives; thanks so much!! ~Rachel

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