Overhead, a dark shadow passed—a hungry pteryform soaring toward the Thames, ready to fish out a kraken or two for breakfast, their preference for the cephalopods the only reason the city council did not launch an armed force to terminate their presence in the city.
~ Colleen Stewart, view from a London rooftop
A gastronomic delicacy sold on the black market.
So what does a pteryform taste like?
Not like chicken, not exactly. Both pteryformes and birds (which are effectively living dinosaurs, albeit much modified) share a common ancestor, the ornithodirans. Regardless of the vast amount of evolutionary time separating the two species, neither is mammalian and, therefore, can’t be expected to taste anything like beef.
What makes beef different from chicken, you ask?
Many birds possess a larger proportion of “white” meat (fast-twitch, glycolytic muscle fibers allowing for quick bursts of activity) compared to slower, more “beefy” mammals with their “red” meat (slow-twitch, oxidative muscle fibers).*
But, if we look at a dinosaur cladogram, we see the pterosaurs** (including pterodactyls, presumed to be the closest relative of a pteryform) are much removed from birds. Pteryformes, therefore, arguably share a closer relationship with extant alligators than they do a chicken.
Alligators are more “white” meat. The tail meat is the whitest and the preferred cut. This portion will taste the most like chicken (reports also suggest a “veal” flavor). Rib and leg meat will be darker and have a stronger flavor (reports indicate leg meat tastes more like frog or even pork).
Though also lean (low in cholesterol), fat distribution in an alligator is different from birds (and most definitely from mammals). They’re a bit more oily, greasy. (Though a good source of healthy, omega-3 fatty acids.)
Finally, a creature’s diet will influence its taste. While the poultry of London lives upon grains (corn, wheat, oats and barley). Pteryformes feast upon kraken, creatures of the sea, of the brackish Thames. Likewise, alligators mostly eat fish and other water creatures, much like our London pteryformes.
So if you can’t find any pteryform meat, not even on the black cryptid market, how do you recreate the experience?
Alligator meat is your best bet.
*Note fast/slow fiber ratios will vary from species to species and even within an animal’s own muscles (dark/light meat).
**(ptero- ptery-, Greek root for “wing”)
2 cups cubed cooked pteryform *see substitutions below
½ cup finely diced scallions
½ cup finely diced celery
1 medium unpeeled apple, cored and chopped
½ cup raisins
½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or zest and juice of one lemon)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Optional for tea sandwiches:
Bread slices, crust removed
Lettuce of choice (leafy or crispy)
- Prepare pteryform/alligator meat
- Tenderize by marinating for 1-2 hours using ~1/4 cup olive oil and 2 Tbsp lemon juice (mix, let sit in refrigerator).
- Cook quickly over a relatively high heat, using a grill or stovetop pan. Pteryform/alligator can also be baked in a 350 degree F oven for 30-50 minutes or broiled for approximately 5 minutes. A minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F is considered safe.
- Allow meat to cool.
- Cut into cubes.
- In a bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, cumin, mustard and olive oil.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Serve on a bed of lettuce – or partition onto prepared bread slices adorned with lettuce.
*To maintain the correct flavor, the best substitution is one pound of cooked alligator meat (check your frozen food section). However, cubed, cooked chicken makes an equally delightful curried chicken salad.
Though USA TODAY bestselling author Anne Renwick holds a Ph.D. in biology and greatly enjoyed tormenting the overburdened undergraduates who were her students, fiction has always been her first love. Today, she writes steampunk romance, placing a new kind of biotech in the hands of mad scientists, proper young ladies and determined villains.
Anne brings an unusual perspective to steampunk. A number of years spent locked inside the bowels of a biological research facility left her permanently altered. In her steampunk world, the Victorian fascination with all things anatomical led to a number of alarming biotechnological advances. Ones that the enemies of Britain would dearly love to possess.
To chat with Anne, stop by on Facebook or join the Department of Cryptobiology Facebook group. You can also join her newsletter list to have cover reveals, sneak peaks, sales and giveaways delivered straight to your inbox.