Busy As Hens?

November 30, 2013

Idle dreaming is often the essence of what we do.
~ Thomas Pynchon

Those pretentious responses that are so often wearily repeated: “I’m just busy” “so busy” “too busy” “extremely busy” “uncontrollably busy” “busy beyond belief” “oh god, so damned busy” and so on. Angst ridden laments framed with sad eyes, shrugged shoulders, and false grins. It is as if these comments are intended to engender sympathy. Such plaintive voices, notably heard in dysturbia — pauvre de moi.

These insipid lines are little more than boasts disguised as afflictions merely meant to create significance to lives while facing the dread of otherwise mundane existences. This existential busyness is merely chosen and commonly self-induced. Extracurricular obligations and activities are voluntarily assumed by selves and others apparently due to unfounded ambitions and/or anxieties.

These are usually not the Henry David Thoreau types who “wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

(Please understand — you do know that I am not speaking of those holding down several jobs or working a servile skeleton shift somewhere or others facing the ravages of inequality or enduring desperate lives and bleak futures. No, those folks are truly busy yet are often heard not to complain.)

Do we really want allegedly “busy” lives like this? Doubtfully, but many collectively coerce one another into doing so these days. Otherwise, apparently life seems to have little meaning to some individuals or families. I never once heard those words “so busy” uttered by my parents or others in my youth. It must be a rather recent phenomenon.

To a busy, it goes that life can never become trivial when constantly meeting demands each hour of every day. Being “so busy” combined with a zeal to get things done naturally begets a sense of self-importance, and even confers a badge of being molested by being put upon daily. The famed author Robert Louis Stevenson once diagnosed obsessive busyness as “a symptom of deficient vitality,” a comment written at a time well before the advent of those products of conceit and intrusion — cell phones, computers, tablets, personal messages, texts, instant messages, tweets, and social media. So, please beware of the screen and evade time famine as best you can.

So, untether thyself and give thought to savoring some idle journeys and whimsy in your life. ‘Tis the season, you know, and our time here is brief.


2 – 2 1/2 lb guinea hens, rinsed and patted dry thoroughly

3 T unsalted butter
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T fresh thyme leaves
Thyme sprigs
2 plump, fresh garlic heads, cut transversely with skins intact

3 T port wine
1 C chicken broth
1 C crème fraîche

Preheat oven to 400 F

Using your hands, rub the butter all over the birds, inside and out. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with thyme leaves. Insert a few thyme sprigs in the bird’s cavity. Place the guinea hens in a heavy roasting pan, breast side up. Scatter the garlic heads around the pan.

Place in the oven and roast 15 minutes. Baste about every 10 minutes with pan drippings, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 F or until the hen juices run clear when a thigh is pierced, about 40 minutes or so.

Remove the hen from the oven and transfer to a cutting board to rest, tented, breast side down on one end with the other end inverted with a shallow bowl. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Drain excess fat from the pan and place over medium high heat, then add the port wine to deglaze. Add the chicken broth and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the pan drippings and bring to a boil. Reduce until the sauce is syrupy. Add salt and pepper again to taste. During the process, you may wish to add a dollop of port to fortify the process (along with the juices from the cutting board). Finish with crème fraîche until reduced to your liking.

Carve the hens and serve on a platter or on individual plates with the open, roasted garlics. Then, pass the sauce in a boat to douce over the servings.


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