NOTHING SYMBOLIZES Portland's recent evolution like our changing attitudes toward backyard novelty birds. Five years ago, Portland's homemaking scene was just finding its footing. Home-jarred pickles lined every pantry; quaint, hand-knitted cozies sheltered every beer; and in every backyard? A couple of plump hens, pecking peckishly away at the kitchen scraps.
But those were veritable frontier days, and the city's aesthetic has undeniably changed in the years since: The rugged, bearded outdoorsman, clad in Danner boots and a Pendleton button-down, has replaced the tea-drinking, cardigan-wearing twee fan who so defined our city in the early aughts. Beer cozies have gone the way of the beer can: Obsolete, in a town where every basement boasts a kegerator full of home-brewed beer. And where black-lava salt once seemed the cutting edge of Portland's sodium-chloride scene, these days the true salt connoisseur wouldn't be caught dead in an artisan salt shop, preferring to harvest their own at the Oregon Coast. (A few intrepid souls are even beginning to harvest heartbreak: Salt made from human tears takes "DIY" to an intimate new level.)
And as for those chickens? It's off to the feathery abattoir. Once a proud symbol of food independence, the few chickens remaining in Portland coops have come to seem tragically out-of-date next to the newest fowl to catch Portland's fancy: the quail. Chickens carry an undeniable waft of hearth and home, a comforting, maternal familiarity embodied in over-sized eggs and endless needy clucking. The hardier quail, housed in a hand-crafted coop made from salvaged materials, represents a triumph of man over nature, a taming of the wild beast without and within. As game birds replace chickens, it's a decisively masculine moment for a city historically more comfortable with its feminine side.