Monday, March 1, 2010

Fannie,Amelia,Constintina and Esther- A change of heart

I have a long history with chicken.  I learned to cook chicken at a very early age preparing dinner for my parents who were frequently late getting home from work.  Rather than complaining I learned to cook.  I was taught by my sister to sprinkle vegit, a health food store herb and salt rub on the chicken and broil it. This is all we ate for several years, it became an embarrassing joke, friends would chide me about what we were having for dinner before accepting an invitation.  I spent about 2 years eating this nightly and about 15 years unable to look at, prepare or order chicken.

This all changed when we moved in to our  current house and quickly discovered our Miele oven had a rotisserie!  Quick to purchase the accessories and get going we became master broilers.   We began our experiment with chicken.  Infusing the bird with A.G Ferrari Sale Toscano a mix of salt, pepper, and herbs.  Available at:   The key is to slit the skin and get the rub under between the skin and the meat not to forget rubbing some on the outer skin.  The result it a succulent  and savory juicy chicken  Even if you are not fortunate enough to have a rotisserie, this rub is so savory it can be used on pork, poultry and pretty much anything.  Serve Moroccan style with Israeli couscous, raita and greens.  Or English style with mashed potato, peas and  spinach.

Although this is a gorgeous chicken with proud results each time, we tire of it if made too often. 

                                         A.G Ferrari Sale Toscano

                                            rubbed, trussed and ready for the heat

With all the Urban Homesteading going onI am frequently asked why I don't raise chickens.  Although thought of fresh eggs is very appealing, I am certain I would need to omit poultry from my diet.  Could I consciously eat chicken  if we had the little birds as pets? Moreover, I have a sordid past with the damn things... some years back  I was  traumatized by being beaten about the face by flapping chicken wings while attempting to rescue "Pidgey" our pre-school's beloved pet. With no other adult in sight I had to pick up the beast and get it back in to it's pen.  I really have not recovered and prefer to only touch them when they are cold.


My aversion to birds started even earlier Dr. Freud.  My sister had pet finches and used to vacuum the cage from the bottom while the little things fluttered about in terror.  Once I witnessed in horror  as one of the little birds was sucked in to the hose.  She stopped the vacuum in time before the poor thing went in to the bag, but it popped out and looked around with a very disturbed and traumatized look akin to Gilda Radner's SNL character Colleen Fernman.

Today I visited my friend Gina Monaci' of Smartscapes.  Gina and I go back about 20 years, we first met on an editorial fashion shoot for Detour Magazine in Catalina.  Both of us having little interest at the time in anything close to food and gardening.  We have become closer in the recent years the two of us clucking like chickens over out gorgeous produce and native flowering this and that's.  She often brings me overflowing baskets from her home garden.
 Gina has chickens, and I have invited myself over in an attempt to overcome my loathing for the winged creatures.   These little beasts provide the most gorgeous little eggs in colors akin to an Easter candy.  Apparently fresh eggs don't need refrigeration, and the multi- colored orbs were proudly displayed  in a bowl on her kitchen counter.

                                          Pastel colored eggs
Like little Beatrix Potter characters each with it's own personality there was Fanny the huge white Brahma who apparently eats everything, Esther a Buff Orphinton who is very friendly and once took to laying eggs in the vegetable patch until Gina removed an eggplant- hmmm?  Gina's favorite Amelia, is an Aracauna and lays beautiful blue green eggs.  As Gina was holding her stroking her head I noticed her enter a trance like state  didn't I read something about chickens being hypnotized, or was that people  being hypnotized to act like chickens?  Chicken boy from Kids in the Hall?
Finally there is  Constantina  she is a nervous Buttercup who lays little bitty eggs and has not much personality, except for the nervous condition..  Chicken Little?  A very interesting pecking order if you ask me.  I can see why so many movies and cartoons have featured chickens.

The hens clucked around her garden, having a lovely time, albeit a bit wary of me, but with a deep love for Gina, who takes great care to see they have the finest food, bedding and shelter.    She received the four chicks from a friend.  She says she spent about $500 building a deluxe pen complete with rumpus room, dining room and loft area for laying.  It's a pretty fabulous pad.  When the chickens aren't penned up they enjoy the run of the yard, eating grubs, earthworms and the occasional weed.  They are fond of stripping parts of plants and her yard that were not offered to them.  Recently hawks have taken camp in her giant Ash tree awaiting a moment to kidnap one of her little treasures, but she is on to them keeping her darlings in close proximity or in their pen. 

Gina and her beloved Amelia


                            Constantina, Amelia, Fanny and Esther in their domicile

 Having now  overcome my abhorrence of these creatures and thinking I might try to hold one next time, I am possibly put off the preparation of chicken for a while.   No harm in that, I think the rest of the family could give it a break.  Can I still call myself a farmer?  Well, not in the "Old MacDonald" sense.  

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