Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On August 21th, 2012, the 63rd day of summer, two hen turkeys took a walk with eleven poults. On the day of the chicken, shake your tail feather until something happens. In 29 days, you want some summer memories to crow about.


I have a fantasy and my fantasy requires a chicken.

I like a good steak. I loved the fifteen dollar ribeye steak once offered at Alleyways, which pulled it off the menu before the restaurant closed. I didn't mean to order the best steak in the house at the Hearthstone Bistro, but once I tucked into it and demolished it, I was happy I had mistakenly ordered the dinner. Hearthstone has a twelve dollars steak that is so far beyond most sizzlers, I hardly have compulsion to go up menu there. For a sense of well being, for a sense of not caring what I am eating, I love a good chicken dinner. It can be two seared breasts at the Ram's Horn. If one can still find a Ram's Horn open. It can be the unlimited chicken dinner served at Zenders Essen Haus in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It can be the tiny morsel of a chicken forcemeat from the erstwhile kitchens of Journeyman in Fennville, Michigan. I just love chicken. So imagine myself with three hundred and sixty five free range chickens wandering around my future ranch, and every night, I slaughter one by chopping of its head with an ax and pluck it and roast it over a fire for my family. Believing that a chicken in every pot is a sign of prosperity, especially when my pot has a chicken, I would make chicken soup when I had no time for roasting.

I lived this dream as a child for it was my mother's dream. My parents bought a farm with three building suitable for chicken coops and my mother raised three hundred chicks in the basement, kept warm under light bulbs until the chicks were strong enough to stay outside in a fenced-in yard. It was my job to water them and strew the ground with feed, which we bought at the Wolcott Mill in Argentine, Michigan. It was also my job to wrangle a hen or rooster and bring it to the stump where my mother raised the ax and severed off the heads. I find myself wondering what she did with those heads now. I find myself wondering what happened to the feathers. Now, looking back, I am certain my older brother quietly wove them into headdresses. And usually, every thing including the part that went over the fence last went into the pot.

My grandmother and my mother made chicken soup in the Polish style. They left it for our Aunt Lee to remove most of the fat and save it for another meal. She married into a family where that was expected. The chicken and fat was left to stew until it fell off the bones, which were strained out. I have no idea where the bones went. I have no idea where the skin went. The stock was enriched with little more than carrots and onions. Once it was almost ready to be served, hand fulls of hand cut thick white flour noodles tumbled into the broth from their hands. I often got to roll and cut those noodles, which they made on the kitchen table dusted with flour. I would eat two or three bowls, each one thickly peppered after a few sips. It was noticed if one peppered the chicken soup right away. This must have had an analgesic, soporific and beatific effect upon my body because I felt incredible, relaxed and full of well-being after a few bowls of their soup.

I visited Key West, and I enjoyed seeing chickens having the run of the island. I visited the chicken house to pay my respects, and I said to the woman running the house, "My mother raised over three hundred chickens, and they often got out of the hen yard and began laying eggs under the corn crib and we never captured every single one that escaped". She looked at me and said, "Thanks for coming in". I wonder if she took me for an eater of chickens. I said, "You're welcome," and I began to look around the merchandise rooms.

I remembered being attacked a few times by an aggressive rooster or two. I called this aggressive rooster, "Douglas", and he always clawed me in the buttocks. He never left a scar, but the attack always arrived as a surprise. I would tell my mother or my friends proudly, "I have just gotten bucked!" I didn't know a thing about cock fighting then, but I am pretty sure Douglas would have done well. I didn't know that's just what a rooster does to protect his territory, but I discovered he didn't attack if I walked through the middle of the yard. Eventually, my mother asked for me to bring a few roosters to the block, and I brought Douglas, struggling against my hold on his legs. I held him upside down so he couldn't reach up and peck my hands. I had become quick at capturing running chickens, hardly needing the chicken hook as help.

Chicken Store in Homestead Florida:

The Chicken Wars in Key West:

Photo credit
A cock and a hen roosting together.
23 December 2007
Andrei Niemimäki from Turku, Finland

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