A burgeoning rooster population on Blacktip Island has caused community leaders to sponsor a coq au vin cooking contest this weekend as part of an effort to reduce island wild chicken numbers. (photo courtesy of Alan Schmierer)
In response to Blacktip Island’s burgeoning feral rooster population, island leaders have organized an all-day coq au vin cook off at the Blacktip Island Heritage House Saturday.
“The rooster numbers have gone bonkers this year,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “They’re overrunning the island. They crow 24 hours a day. It’s driving guests bug-nutty. We’re getting killed on TripAdvisor.
“Our goal’s to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak,” Cobia said. “Contestants have to make coq au vin with island roosters. It’ll reduce the number of roosters and give tourists a reason to come back to Blacktip. We’re calling it the Coq Au Vin Cock Off.”
Event organizers say the event is a natural for Blacktip.
“We got the idea from the lionfish culls, where we kill the bad guys, then eat them,” Cock Off chair Clete Horn said. “It’s also a shout out to the French pirates who were some of Blacktip’s earliest settlers. Every household here has it’s own take on coq au vin.
“The only rules are you have to use a local rooster, and it has to be cooked on site the day of the contest,” Horn said. “Some are doing a classic rooster stew, some are doing a jerk chicken, and there’s one contestant going with mango and scotch bonnet peppers.”
Island residents have embraced the contest.
“I’m behind anything that gets rid of these damn roosters,” resident Ginger Bass said. “I can’t sleep with them crowing non stop, and they’re crapping on everything. Being able to eat them is karma in action. And cooking at the Heritage House, where the roosters are thickest, hopefully some of them will take the hint.”
Others were uneasy with the idea.
“Roosters are a problem, sure, but butchering, braising and consuming them is a barbaric fix, no matter how yummy,” Blacktip People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “We presented a plan for corralling them in a free-range habitat at the south end of the island, complete with games and fitness trails, but the island council shut us out.”
Others were concerned about the event’s long-term impact.
“Removing that many chickens so quickly will cause the island insect population to skyrocket,” Department of Environmental Health head Rosie Blenny said. “People may may get more sleep tomorrow night, but we’ll be overrun with roaches and ants down the road. It’s a delicate balance we’re toying with here.
“There’s also the concern that the roosters being culled will be the slow, stupid ones,” Blenny said. “Long term, we’re strengthening the species. Frankly, we’re worried that may be the chickens’ long game.”
Most locals, however, are eager to taste the results.
“People’ve been testing out recipes all week, and the island smells great,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “I hope the stuff at the cook off is better, though. None of the cocoa van recipes I’ve tried so far tasted anything like chocolate.”
The winner will receive a cast-iron Dutch oven and the coveted Coq d’Or trophy.