Mother’s little helper
NOTE: This and the next post go together. They’ll be about the meat birds, but this one is not graphic!
“SURELY, there has to be an easier way to do that,” my mother said.
She had just come outside and has safely seated herself on the other side of the table from me, about as far away as she could. She brought me a pint-sized glass canning jar with two fingers’ worth of Cabernet in it. She thought it would be an appropriate way of serving me wine, considering what I am doing. I am leaning over a galvanized tub, removing the feathers from a meat bird.
“Why yes, mom, there is an easier way. But let me explain to you the concept of the $100. Chicken, and why we won’t be going there.”
I explain to her how a mechanical plucker works. I tell her more about the process of what it was that I was doing. (She had been inside the whole while, entertaining the patient, so she hadn’t seen a thing.) And then I asked her a pointed question:
“How far back in our family do you think we need to go before we find another woman who plucked her own chicken?” I asked.
This is a question we should all ask ourselves. (Let’s make it easy on ourselves and remove the idea of “want to” from “have to” pluck a chicken.) How far is it, really, before we find relations who grew their own food, raised their own animals for the table? We pondered the issue of our own genealogy for a while and agreed it was probably my great-great grandmother, back on the Old Sod, who probably did such a thing. That, friends, is a long time ago. Unknowable generations ago.
Now, my own mother has gardened, of course. She had us kids labor in the U-Pick farms around us to harvest everything from peas to turnips to tomatoes to blueberries to peaches, all destined for the table or for rows of gleaming canning jars in the basement: it was her attempt to extend the reach of a one-income household. Granted, she was an anomaly amongst her friends; it was the early 70s though so some hippie things (making your own wine, candles; brining your own pickles) was something my parents thought might be fun to try. She still makes her own jams. But true farming is a stretch for her, and her relations: even my great-grandmother had a college education. My mother’s family history is that of happy upper middle class life. No chicken plucking, ever.
There’s a similar story on my father’s side. I don’t know where I get this, in other words. I only know that, even though there’s a lot of sweat involved, this is the best food possible for me and my family. Surely, there is an easier way, Mom; it’s just not the road I’m gonna to take.