Most of you probably think of chicken as a type of meat that’s found in your grocer’s meat case. Because I grew up on a farm, when I think of chicken, a whole different world comes to mind.
In our hierarchy of animal care, chickens were on the bottommost rung. They were noncompliant, very excitable and mean. They were also free to roam, so on a typical farmstead they would be everywhere, and so were their droppings. As a result every step I took had to be placed with extreme care to avoid these mini-minefields. I was continually looking at the ground, and I think it permanently affected my posture.
While I hated them, my mother absolutely loved chickens. Each spring we would go to town and get boxes of pullets (baby chickens). She would call them her peeps. I must admit they were cute, but it didn’t take me long to realize that every peep just grew up to be a chicken.
Each summer several days were set aside to “butcher chickens.” Yes, believe it or not, that’s what it was called. An assembly line was set up which involved a chopping block, a hatchet, scalding hot water to aid in the plucking, and an alcohol fire for singeing the pinfeathers. And finally the unfortunate carcass was cut up into pieces.
This genocide was performed by a group of normally nonviolent Christian women with quick, efficient, and lethal hands. A detailed description of what actually happened is too awful to describe here, but the final product was a chicken wrapped and ready for the freezer.
Unlike my mother, I saw nothing lovable about a chicken. And as for intelligence, I thought chickens were limited at best, that is until I read an article by Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker magazine. He writes:
“There’s a restaurant in Chinatown where years ago you could play tic-tac-toe with a chicken. I used to take visitors there. You could tell a lot about what kind of people they were. The set-up had back-lit letters for signs that said ‘Your Turn’ and ‘Chicken’s Turn’ and ‘$0.50 to Play.’ If you beat the chicken at tic-tac-toe, you got a bag of fortune cookies as a prize. Probably worth a total of $0.40. Anyway, I’d take people there and say, ‘Why don’t you play?’ And they’d say all kinds of things, mostly it went like this:
They’d look at the set-up, then me, and say stuff like, ‘But the chicken gets to go first!’
‘Yeah,’ I’d tell them, ‘but you’re a human being, and that ought to be an advantage.’
‘So what. The chicken plays every day. I haven’t played since I was a kid.’”
The article was a revelation to me. I now realized there actually might be a bit of intelligence in each of my mother’s feathered friends.
I no longer have the disgusting job of taking care of chickens, and today my only contact with a chicken is to find a great recipe and then purchase, prepare, and cook the deceased. Ah, sweet (and very tasty) revenge, so what’ll it be – white meat or dark?
To view the recipe, click on Chicken Double-Fried And Countrified. The recipe will appear below the narrative.