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The Hard Chicken

1012116_10151727357887177_1481070835_nThe butcher pulls out what he calls a “hard chicken”. Bristles of half feathers down its back all punky Mohawk. Gnarled yellow feet. And the longest neck I have ever seen this side of a giraffe. He was so pleased that someone actually wanted to purchase it. He grinned, “You must be from a farm, like me! We know what tastes the best! You just have to cook it slowly! And better still: $2.35 a pound, eh Sister?”

 

The butcher calls me sister. Well, I have to buy it now. I see why he doesn’t display it in the front window. t ask as bravely as I can, “Do you think you could remove the head and feet for me? I don’t need them…this time.”

 

LIAR! When have I ever ever ever cooked a chicken head?!

 

It’s all butcher machismo I’m pulling here.

 

He grins, “Sure, sure, you want the neck?”

 

It’s so long my daughter could skip rope with it. I lie again.

 

“Of course! It’s the best part! Aside from the head and feet, so good for soup.”

 

Lie two. He shows me the slice in the throat between the head and the skull.

 

“You see, halal, we kill compassionately.”

 

“Oh yes, I know, I trust. I know. That’s why I’m here. My friend is from Algeria, it’s her birthday today and I’m cooking for her. Not the hard chicken. The leg of lamb. The hard chicken is for me. The farm girl.”

 

Why am I continuing to lie to this man? I don’t know. It’s entirely unlike me. I guess I just want to assure him I appreciate his hard chicken as much as he does. He peels the skin off of it for me and I try not to think of Medieval torture.

 

“Oh she’s a beauty. Not a bit of fat on her. She had a good life running around. This woman, this old woman, from Bangladesh like me, I get these hard chickens from her. They lay eggs, they run around, and when they’re done, we kill them.”

 

Indeed. This chicken reminds me of underweight women who do yoga. The little bunch of skin between the shoulder blades. The wide gab between the thighs. The skinny long neck. Ee gads. The goose pimples. Get this poor girl some stuffing.

 

I start to gain an affection for her.. In my mind I say, “Hard chicken, I will roast you for three hours and make the best gravy to grace your skinny little wings. You had a good life and I’m glad. I’ll take you tough and happy instead of fat and miserable.”

 

Then the butcher readies my huddled duck and my huge leg of lamb still connected to the flank. He carves it expertly. Then, he cuts slices off the flank to grind right in front of me. I am taken by this.

 

“You know, when you go to Safeway, meat is packaged in tiny little pieces. It is easy to forget that a living creature died so we can eat. The meat here is still connected to the animal. It makes me…makes me more grateful.”

 

“Yes, Miss, yes. We are very fortunate.”

 

I head out the door with my three sacrificed animals. “Thank you.”

 

A chime jingles as I pass through.

 

“Good-bye, Sister! See you again soon.”1133

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13 comments

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  1. lb

    hooray! a Lucia blog! you are a wonderful writer!

    1. Lucia Frangione

      thank you, my dear pal!

  2. Dorraine

    Sounds like you found a winning neighbourhood butcher! I’m jealous: I’d love to have a knowledgable resource like that in my community. There are some talented butchers, but they are mostly inaccessible from the storefront, not easy to chat with like yours 😉 It sounds like the prices will be reasonable, as well. Enjoy your yummy hard chicken. I’m sure your Nigerian friend will be able to share some great recipes with you! Maybe next time you’ll be brave enough to take the feet with you, too! (Though it sure is handy to have a cheerful butcher to lop it into pieces for you before you come home.)

    1. Lucia Frangione

      have you ever cooked the feet?!

  3. norma roth

    lucia, fibbing to the butcher. :) i think that makes lots of sense. so happy to have your blog on my favourites. will miss the facebook chain of comments but happy to readjust.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      wahoo, my dear Norma!

  4. David Pink

    So great that you started a blog, love reading your stories and now one more reason to not go Facebook.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      haha, David! Great to have you here!

  5. Deana Halhead

    It’s so like you to find the most unique angle of a rather everyday subject. Then, adding spice and thought, twists and flavor, you bring home the hard chicken. I very much appreciate how you led me to a deeper recognition of gratefulness – the whole animal died so we could be blessed with meat. Huh! That word will resonate for a few days while I digest an excellent meal. Thank you, sister.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      haha, my pleasure, sister! xo Lovely to have you visit here.

  6. Garth

    What a nice surprise Lucia. Thanks :)

    1. Lucia Frangione

      thank you for visiting, Garth!

  7. Andrew

    Lucia,

    So glad you have this blog. I don’t know how many times I wondered to myself when you were going to do something like this. Always a pleasure.

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