Connecting to the foods we eat

My neighbour Pat who is in her eighties is a wonderful example of self-sufficiency. She was taught as a young girl to carry out tasks such as killing and dissecting poultry. Pat firmly believes that people should be self sufficient and able to live off the farm they are living on.  Pat, a Polish immigrant laments about MSG and noxious sprays, still has a productive garden with solar panels on her roof with goats and poultry roaming the paddocks. I tell her that these themes are all fashionable these days as people aspire to live in harmony with the land. What was that song about it all being a little bit of history repeated?

My other neighbour and I had spoken about the idea of killing some of our own poultry to eat and I had been thinking a lot about this. I have been a vegetarian  (varying degrees) since I was about fourteen. During those early years I always ate chicken, just not red meat and certainly it would have been caged and hormone fed birds that I was eating. I now buy for my family organic chickens and admittedly there are gaps in that ethic also. The poultry we keep are a part of our family of pets, could I do it and how would I cope? The underlying theme was that if I was going to munch on a chicken and salad roll I was going to have to go through with it. I asked Pat if she would show us how to dissect a bird and she laughed loudly and for a length of time before exclaiming “But you don’t know how to do it” as though it was the silliest thing she had heard all day.

There were six roosters ready to be culled. I picked up Cynthia and we took Jenny and Etienne (the wwoofers) and my children also as it was school holidays. The birds had been supposed to be kept in the shed but they had escaped so after chasing them around with much hilarity we had four chooks hanging by their feet minus their heads. It sounds straighforward, it was, well how can I say it, intense. The de feathering was perhaps the easiest part of the task it was the removing of the insides that was the trickiest. We set aside all the  “bits” such as the liver, heart and testicles and were careful not to rupture potentially poisonous parts and waste.

We had arrived by 9.30 and at 1.30 we had finished four birds. Pat still had two birds running around the paddock. I couldn’t go any further and the children had seen enough and were hungry. It was interesting to see how the children related to the process. It was one of my daughters who sat to observe most of the exercise and everyone else reported varying degrees of nausea, no one has had chicken since and I have been preparing pulses and lentils at an alarming rate. I am sure that soon this feeling will pass and I will come to want to prepare chicken again, and when that time comes I would I rather reach into my freezer for my own healthy bird than head into Safeway, I am just not sure when I am ready for the task ahead. In the meantime, lentil salad anyone?

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