“Your life would disgust a vegan,” Nate told me recently.
I think I’d just said, “Shoot, I forgot my chicken fat.”
This post might disgust vegans, too, because I’m going to tell you about that chicken fat, and the chicken it came from, and how I killed it. Ready, predators?
This chicken was the first vertebrate I ever killed, although I have tried to kill rats, who ate the peanut butter off my traps, and fish, who ignored me. Also, cleaning the barn one time, I destroyed a rats nest, and had to watch the naked pink babies die slowly in the sunlight. That’s killing the way we do most of our killing these days — callously, with lots of rhetoric about what is necessary and no blood on our hands.
So I wasn’t exactly innocent before I killed the chicken, but that chicken was the first animal whose head I ever chopped off. She was a big hen, part of a batch of meat birds my parents raised and killed last fall. I caught her and held her. She was light and warm and smooth. I remember her being calm. I put a loop of baling twine around her neck, and hooked it over a nail in the side of the chopping stump. I held her feet with my other hand, her neck stretched and still. One clean chop with the hatchet did it, but life doesn’t stop with death, and chickens show that. She flapped and bled and flapped and bled.
Killing her didn’t feel wrong and it was not hard to do. Much easier on the viscera than gutting, which makes my insides lurch around, maybe in sympathy. In between I dipped her in a pot of boiling water and ran her over the plucker, where rubber toggles beat the feathers off her in an over-enthusiastic massage.
Inside her we found and egg and a dozen yellow moons, each incrementally smaller. Yolks with no shell.
That hen fed me for months. First I roasted her for a dinner party. Then Nate snacked on her skin in the messy late-night kitchen. I made pot pie with the scraps, and stock with the bones and fat. There was so much fat, I made two batches of broth. The first had an inch-thick layer of fat on the surface; the second was milky with bones. I froze the broth and ate it for many meals. The egg drop soup it made could heal, I swear. When the broth drained out of the jar, there was still the fat, which kept for several weeks, while I used it like lard. I am eating the last of it this week, in a cabbage beef hash. Everything about that chicken was delicious.
My parents are gearing up to teach a chicken butchering class now, and I am raising my own batch of urban hens. My hens are for eggs, officially, but Squinchy is not the only one who watches them while thinking about dinner. If the time came, I know I could kill another chicken, and I would know what to do with it afterwards.