Sunday, November 18, 2012

It Might Just Be Chicken—Day 17 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            I have already given a couple of stories about the processing of "live food," yet I still have another one.  This one does not just taste like chicken; it is chicken.  Yes, my family was touched by domesticated birds as well as the wild variety when I was a child.

            Growing up, we did not raise chickens, but my mom managed to buy too many (in my young opinion) chickens a couple of times for the sole purpose of butchering and freezing them.  Of course, we lived in town and used our backyard for the primary location for the devastation.  I think we had the live birds in some gunny sacks, and Mom would pull them out one at a time.  They flopped and squawked while Mom tried to elicit my help.  I was not much help since those flapping wings and the occasional loose claw kept me at bay.  Eventually, she somehow got the head of each bird (one at a time) pinned to the ground with her foot.  She then put a broom handle over its neck, stepped on the broom handle on each side of the head, firmly grasped the legs, and then suddenly jerked.  As a result, I have a vivid understanding of the phrase, "Running around like a chicken with its head cut off."  It was my assigned duty to capture the apparently escaping bodies and return them to a central location.  Step one in the butchering process was completed.

            The other steps included dipping the deceased birds in nearly boiling water, pulling out feathers (which, of course, stuck to a person's hands, arms, and virtually everywhere to a certain point), singe-ing the pin feathers, gutting, cutting up, and lastly, wrapping and freezing the pieces.  The part that stands out the most in my memory is the horrible smell of hot, wet feathers (and the singe-ing).  I am sure the location of this part of the process had a major role in burning this detail into my brain. 

            At this time, we were living in the basement of the first house my parents built.  We lived in the basement for several years while they saved up money to then spend on different stages of construction to reach their blueprint goals.  In essence, it was easier to carry re-filled gunny sacks into the basement than to carry the very large metal tub filled with very hot water up the stairs and into the yard.  Did I mention the ventilation?  The best place for this huge wash tub was in our cinderblock shower.  The bathroom had no windows, and by the way, to get to this  bathroom (which was the only one at the time), one would have to travel through the kitchen.  The kitchen had no windows either.  Thus, the "stink" basically stayed completely in the bathroom with me while I plucked.  This experience in the basement in my childhood influenced a decision we made last year (or maybe it was two years ago), but I will talk about that tomorrow.

            In the meantime, consider yourself and your family lucky if you have not been touched by an odor-filled experience in a windowless bathroom with hot, water-logged chicken feathers, and if find yourself eating something that tastes a lot like chicken, then it might very well be that—chicken. 

***By the way, if you are looking for Day 16, stop.  There isn't one.  I apologize, but that is just how it is sometimes.

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