Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Essay/Treatise/Load o' Bull?

Chicken looks like people. Go ahead and look at your elbow. Notice how there are tiny bumps? Do some of those bumps maybe have microscopic hairs coming out of them that you can just barely see? Now, take that chicken out of the fridge and start getting it ready for dinner. Put it in the pan and take a look at it. Do you see the tiny bumps? If the chicken was not plucked perfectly, and you take a good look, do some of those bumps maybe have microscopic hairs/feathers coming out of them that you can barely see? It is the way of the raw, plucked chicken.

Other meats are fine because they don’t make me feel like I’m eating myself, or a version of myself. I think meat, lamb, pork, and fish all look like what they are – animals. Yes, pork is white also (and much more closely related to humans than chickens, but that is beside the point) but it does not look like my elbow.

There are certain other foods that I don’t like, but am willing to try them. Tripe, liver, raw bivalves, and some brains and eyeballs are, for the time being, still off the table. I grew up in a clam-digging town and love fried clams, baked clams, clam chowder, and other clam foods. However, steamers and bivalves on a half-shell look like boogers. Why would anyone want to eat a booger? On purpose? With hot sauce? On a date, as an aphrodisiac?

My mother had to raise 5 kids alone. There was rarely enough food. Baked chicken was one of the most common Sunday dinner meals I remember. And I hated it. My mom would bake the chicken in a paper bag - the kind you get at the grocery store that, earlier in the day, had dirty, dented cans of generic corn and peas in it. I almost thank God for my OCDs because I thought it was gross then. I suppose I'm all the stronger for it (i.e. the germs and increased immunity), but I still can't see why anyone would think it was OK to cook a whole stupid chicken in a dirty grocery store brown paper bag.
Other than the roast chicken, Sunday dinners consisted of lasagna (yum), spaghetti with gravy (which ended up on the table full of breadcrumbs because everyone would dip bread in it all day while it was cooking), ham (which turned into pea soup by the following weekend), or smothered steak. There was usually enough for everyone. We obviously didn’t starve. Having the big Sunday meal was the one time we were guaranteed a full meal (other than holidays, but that is true for most people, I believe).

I don't completely dislike everything about baked chicken. I like me some dark meat, as long as it is super-duper moist almost to the point of being wet. I also love, LOVE, the oysters. As much as I learn about the anatomy of a chicken, I still refer to them as the ass of the chicken. I'll explain. See, you got your chicken lying boobs-up in a pan baking. After it is done baking, you need to let it cool, but after it cools, flip that chick over. Along the spine (along what is probably the lower back and not the ass) are two nuggets of meat sitting in oyster-shaped cavities, lightly covered with skin that has kept those succulent chunks of other white meat juiced for the hours that bird has been in the oven. Don't even try to use a spoon or fork or knife or anything but your hands to scoop those oysters out. You need to get your fingers greasy and you really need to dig inside of those cavities to get every last morsel out. Those are the oysters, or, ersters.

Every other part of the chicken is yours 'cuz I don't want it. Besides, my three older brothers, my sister, my mom and whoever else happened to be at dinner that Sunday was bound to want a piece of chicken and I was bound to gladly give them whatever they wanted - but God help the person who tries to deprive me of my oysters. People in my family have been hit in the head with lead pipes, attacked by swarms of bees, stabbed in the leg with a fork, gotten pencils stuck up their nose, been thrown into the tub, have had their beds set on fire, have stepped on light bulbs, have been in countless car crashes, have had multiple knee surgeries, have gotten hit by cars, and have had who-knows-what-else happen to them, so don't take my oysters.

And here’s another gross thing about chicken. Am I the only one who sees the fat that coagulates after a couple of days in the refrigerator? How is that not nauseating to people who just flick it off and munch on that leftover chicken? One of my punishments (it may not have been a real punishment, but a perceived one) was to clean the carcass off after a few days to get every last scrap of meat off of the chicken skeleton. I remember the alley cats being my best friend during those times.

I should add that my mom was always good about cooking the gizzards with the chicken and letting me feed them to the alley cats. Spike, my first alley cat, would never wait for the gizzards to cool off. He would start chowing down the second I put the food down. He would mumble while chewing and it would sound something like, "Mrwoeaonfn Mewoornfggg!" Translated, that means, "Hot Hot Hot!" It wouldn't stop him. But I have stopped myself from eating baked chicken when at all possible.

I don’t completely hate roast chicken in another way too. Those Sunday dinners were the only time that my family was together. My grandparents were alive and I was able to get my grandpa’s rice pudding. Even if my childhood and my family were not perfect, there are good memories, even if they involve a baked chicken.

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