We haven’t eaten meat in a LONG time.
Trust me. We like us some bacon cheeseburger in theory. We aren’t all granola eating virtuous. However, I read a couple of books a number of years ago that made me decide that for the health of my family and for the health of our environment, eating a primarily vegetarian diet would be a better option for us.
But I couldn’t kick the cheese. Or eggs. or Mayo. . .so even though vegan might be better, we were pretty firmly vegetarian. And a healthful vegetarian too. We didn’t just sit around eating cheese covered french fries. And we try to be cognizant of where our food comes from. We try.
Then Mac arrived. And the Doc says coming off the formula he should have meat occasionally. He’s cleared to eat fish now so that’s a plus. And frankly, I don’t want to deprive my son of experiences so I’m happy to oblige with a little meat variety. . .
Or at least I thought I was. . .
It was my birthday. Chris offered to make reservations. However, I decided that I’d make us a for real dinner straight out of “Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook.” It’s a little book I picked up on a trip to Crisfield years ago. Chris mentioned to me not too long ago that we’d never cooked anything in the cookbook. And I told him truthfully, it was because the items in the book were not exactly healthful daily type meals.
But it was my birthday!
So the night before, I studied the cookbook (box of wine at the ready). . .With a glorious vision in my head that perhaps I could prepare a meal so beloved, so special that it would be requested on other special occasions. . .Something that Mac could remember. A cookbook he would have with my notes and vinegar and canned creamed corn splatters in the margins.
Now, I know Chris has a penchant for things BBQ-ed, and fried, and buttered. . .His Granny did that sort of cooking better than anyone. Add to that fact that our own pediatrician told us to perhaps butter Mac’s vegetables in the hopes he might gain weight. So I figured I’d go all out crazy southern type picnic foods.
I planned a meal of: Pickled Carrots, Corn Casserole, Macaroni Salad, BBQ CHICKEN, and because I couldn’t stand all the starch, my own watermelon, feta, cilantro, red onion salad.
I’ve not cooked out of so many cans in ages! Maybe ever? It makes sense that Mrs. Kitching would need to cook from cans. She lived on a relatively remote island just about smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. And she did cook with the seasons. . .the cookbook is broken into seasons. . .Still. . .
I had to buy a lot of cans. Mac and I walked to the local Safeway which I loathe and only frequent under extreme duress. I had to load up on evaporated milk, french dressing, mayo, cornstarch, cans of creamed corn. . .
and. . .
A chicken. . .
Yeah. I needed a chicken. I seriously haven’t purchased a chicken in at least 5 years. So you can imagine my surprise at the cost. The recipe called for an approximate 3lb frying chicken cut into pieces.
I stared at the poultry.
The thighs that were previously frozen were inexpensive. And I knew they would likely still be flavor-full. I considered boneless, skinless. . .But I know that wasn’t going to cut it for a Mrs. Kitching’s recipe.
I rounded one of the refrigerated cases with the stroller top-heavy with cans, and found what claimed to be a “hormone free, organic, free range” 2.5 lb whole chicken for $15.13. It included a tag that said “some of the giblets may be missing.” Where the hell would they have gone?!
I rounded the refrigerated cases two more times.
Then, I bought the $15 chicken.
For the love of my Husband, the supposed health of my kid, and perhaps most appallingly, the approval of our pediatrician, my insane ass bought 2.5 pounds of chicken for $15.
I managed to stuff the little plastic wrapped bundle into the bottom of the stroller. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to stomach eating it or stand the small of it cooking. But I was determined to try so Mac knows I can switch it up. That I’m flexible. (LIES! LIES!)
I purchased a small fountain soda before we headed to the checkout and offered Mac a straw. He loves those suckers for some inexplicable reason.
I walk home, stroller full of cans and meat. I feel guilty but still optimistic. Mrs. Kitching isn’t going to lead me astray. I saw the pics of her in the cookbook for chrissakes! She’s a sweet little old lady!
A sweet little old lady who dismembers chickens!
Upon arriving home, I put Mac down for his nap, unload all the crap onto my counter and get to it. Most of the items are simple to prepare and I breeze through them. The chicken is still waiting in the fridge for um. . .dismemberment.
Yes. The recipe called for a frying chicken CUT INTO PIECES.
I open the package, remove the giblets and sharpen a knife. I’m sure I’ve seen Barefoot Contessa dismember a chicken at some point and it looked fairly straightforward – pleasant even. And then Jeffery comes home and they have wine and chicken in their beautiful cedar shake shingled house by the sea and she’s not greasy or sweaty or covered in chicken slime, her white shirt still pristine. . .Sorry. I think I just blacked out there for a minute! Plus, I had an anatomy class in college. I had to dissect a cat. Surely I can cut up a chicken.
I start by making a tentative slice at the joint where the thigh meets the body. Damn. I hit bone. I’m pretty sure the object is to do your whack jobs at the joints. . .Cringing, I fiddle around twisting and poking and prodding looking for a joint.
Everything feels so greasy.
At any other grocery, I would have requested they cut up the chicken for me. However, this Safeway does not excel at customer service. . .In fact they downright suck at it. Which is why I would almost rather starve than purchase their $15 chicken but again. . .I’ve insanely convinced myself it’s for the good of the family. . .
I manage to get one leg off the bird. The wings aren’t so bad. The breast? Ugh. Ribs cracking. Something that I’m certain is the chicken equivalent of the wishbone pierces through some breast meat several times until I finally just break it off, the skin slides around funky. I try to pat it all back into place. Suffice to say if that bird wasn’t dead when I took it out of my refrigerator, it definitely was when I finished my gruesome little dissection.
The chicken needed to marinate in Mrs. Kitching’s home-made BBQ sauce which I rapidly feared was going to taste “off” since apparently my Husband has been eating honey by the spoonfuls and forget to remind me to get more! I managed to eek nearly enough out of the jar, but not before the counter is completely sticky on top of greasy, juicy, and lord only knows what chicken-elsey.
I tossed everything in a Ziploc bag, disinfected the bejesus out of the counter, and ate a sprout sandwich in repentance.
I cooked the chicken exactly as the cookbook instructed. I didn’t deviate a degree or minute on the cooking temperatures and time.
Chris walked in the door and immediately perked up his nose. “It smells goooooooood in here. What’s for dinner?”
“BBQ chicken,” I reply in a slightly naughty tone.
“Really?” He asks with the same enthusiasm he reserves for when I come to bed in something other than maternity knickers and a ratty old T-shirt.
I plate up our food, cutting small pieces of breast meat (sans skin and sauce) for Mac.
The anticipation is palpable.
The meat is plenty moist and the sauce is fantastic.
And yet. . .
Mac refused every bite.
I certainly felt less than enthused about eating it.
Even Chris admitted it was very good but it was chicken.
The left overs are still in the refrigerator.
I guess none of us are chicken.
On the upside, I know I’m not going to have to ever dismember raw poultry again.