I met the chicken we had for dinner. My good friends Pat and John used to raise chickens. They roamed around behind their house, and had a coop out back. Those chickens had a nice life, they ate table scraps (vegetarian only), spent their days in the sun, they ran away from the dogs, and hung out, acting like a bunch of hens. Eventually they became dinner to a most appreciative family. No one in the family was squeamish about it, that’s part of life on a farm. You raise animals, and then either sell them, or consume them. This chicken had an enjoyable life, and then was enjoyed.
I admit I didn’t take part in any of the steps involved in preparing this chicken for the meal. I was a dinner guest, and it was while we were eating and I remarked how good it was, that the girls told me about their chicken. I wasn’t shocked or disgusted, I was intrigued by the nonchalance of these two kids, as well as the excellence of the bird. When the chicken came to the table, I thought there was going to be a fist fight over the luscious skin. It was a golden yellow, and super crispy and fatty in a yummy, rather than greasy way. It was flavorful in a way I wasn’t accustomed to, and the meat was just as tasty and unctuous as the skin, minus the crisp.
If you have never had a chicken raised on a non-commercial farm, you really should. Like a garden fresh tomato, or home made bread, this chicken had a character that made it special. I have since had some pretty good chicken—if I can I buy them at farmers’ markets, and for a while Whole Foods Market sold a (very expensive) wonderful heirloom chicken that I think no one but me bought, which is too bad, because that chicken was worth the extra cost!
Most of us have grown used to flavorless food. We eat tasteless tomatoes year ’round, we buy Iceberg, and Romaine lettuce, we eat plain white rice, and then drown it all in hot sauce just to get some flavor. I’m not suggesting you go and get yourself some chickens and start raising them in your yard, but I am suggesting that what you think of as chicken doesn’t really taste like chicken. Most people don’t like the taste of grass fed beef when they try it—it tastes too beefy…
What was so wonderful about that chicken was much more than its deliciousness. I savored the effort and care that when into raising that bird, the pleasure of being with a family I love dearly, and the knowledge that this chicken had fulfilled its purpose and was now feeding six people, who were taking such pleasure in the result.