Flesh from Bone

Yesterday, I roasted a chicken for the first time in months.

We’ve been ill. We’ve been distracted. We’ve been in perpetual motion.

Last week, I said enough already and promised myself I’d make my way back to the kitchen – I’d make space for food that demands forethought and time.

We called Dottie from the farm up the road and ordered eggs, bacon, and a chicken.

***

I rinsed the bird in the stainless steel sink after lunch, then put it in the oven on low heat. I cooked it long and slow, then left it to sit, covered, so the juices would remain in the flesh.

***

A few years ago, I went through a phase where I didn’t want to deal with any bones. If we ordered wings, mine were boneless. If I cooked chicken or turkey, it was breast-meat only, purchased on a neat foam tray with the fat and gristly bits all trimmed away.

I didn’t want to see the whole animal. I didn’t want to be left with a carcass on my cutting board. I didn’t want to pull meat from bone.

It was too gross, too real, for me.

***

We went to the pet store on Monday for some doggie aspirin. Our old boy has an infection on his paws that is causing him a good deal of suffering. I couldn’t get him into the vet right away, so I went in search of pain relief for this first of my “children.”

While in the store, my sons asked to check out the critters. They delighted in the parakeets and shuddered at the tarantula before heading into the darkened room of fish tanks. As we watched neon tetras dart back and forth, an employee dipped her net in and out of tank of hundreds of feeder guppies. A customer waited patiently nearby.

“Wow, she’s buying a lot of fish!” Gray announced.

I glanced up at the customer. We exchanged a knowing look.

“Yes,” I replied. “Those are feeder fish. They are going to be dinner for a larger animal.”

The boys were appalled.

“You mean they’re going to get killed?”

It took a few minutes for us to process through this whole food-chain-circle-of-life thing, with Miles all the while waving at the bag of guppies and repeating, “I’m gonna miss those fiiish-ies. I’m gonna miss those fiiish-ies.”

“It’s simple, boys,” I said, the heel of my boot squeaking on the water-streaked linoleum. “Something has to die so another thing can live.”

***

Yesterday afternoon, my boys and I snuggled up on the couch for read-aloud time. We’ve been digging into Charlotte’s Web this week – the story of a runt pig named Wilbur who is saved from death by the farmer’s daughter, Fern.

In yesterday’s reading, Wilbur, a few months old now, has fattened up nicely. The other farm animals deliver the cruel news that in the fall, at slaughtering time, he will meet his end.

When we finished the chapter, I asked my boys to narrate the events. Gray explained the gist of it, and I prodded, “But why is he going to die?”

My four-year-old chimed in, “So they can have yummy pork chops and ham and BACON!”

“That’s right, Bud,” I replied. “If a pig hadn’t died, there wouldn’t have been any bacon with your pancakes this morning, would there?”

“Nope,” he exclaimed, the smile slowly fading from his face.

***

After reading time, I returned to the kitchen to pull apart my chicken.

I spread my hands over its body, moist heat filling my palms.

Opening my eyes, I grabbed a leg, tore it off. I gripped the hock tightly while plucking flesh from bone, stacking it on my cutting board beside a newly sharpened knife.

I moved on to the wing, then the breast, my hands shiny and slick with fat, bits of meat stuck beneath my fingernails.

The crisp skin and stringy veins were sent to a second pile on the lid of my roasting dish. Bones, to a third.

I looked over the three piles. Meat. Skin and bits. Bones.

There were other parts. Parts I had not seen. Beak. Toes. Feathers. Innards. Parts that were cleaned up and disposed of long before Dottie delivered the chicken to my door on her way to town Sunday morning.

I thought about those parts. Eyes. Neck. Tail.  I thought those guppies and that pig. The bacon on our breakfast table. The chicken heading for my soup pot.

I pulled a plastic bag from the drawer and carefully loaded the carcass and loose bones into it. I opened the freezer and placed the bag of bones on the shelf, keeping them for broth — keeping them so that one ordinary chicken may nourish my family on another day, in another way.

***

We pulled our chairs up to the dinner table last night, leaned forward over bowls of hot soup. Before my husband had a chance to lead us, I bowed my head and gave thanks for family and home, for fish, pigs, and fowl.

***

Wilbur’s life is saved by a spider named Charlotte who weaves words about Wilbur into her barn-door webs.

SOME PIG.

TERRIFIC.

RADIANT.

HUMBLE.

***

The soup was terrific. Hearty and savory. Perfect amount of chicken. Perfect amount of heat.

***

After saving Wilbur, Charlotte dies.

Her baby spiders live.


 

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10 thoughts on “Flesh from Bone

  1. Great read! We raised duck and my little guy at the time made the mistake of naming the duck. Needless to say when we butchered them and had them for dinner – we didn’t tell him it was ‘that’ duck. Since I’ve had long conversations about animals raised for food. So you story is something I can relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello,
    Alwayes you have to look for the healthy food, you can learn the slow food policy then you can find your self, it’s easy method and anyone can follow, Do you know what is that? Go back to Nature, That is it!

    Like

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