Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why I didn't eat chicken as a boy

I was in New York on Friday, having lunch with my daughter and Tim, her companion. On the way through Grand Central someone handed me a pamphlet "25 Reasons to be Vegetarian". I've looked it over and though I was vegetarian for several years when Bern and I were first married, I don't think I'll go back to a meatless life.

But I didn't eat chicken when I was a boy because of one of the reasons for being Vegetarian--"would you be willing to kill the animals you eat?"

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child. She lived up on a hill in Conklintown, WV, just five miles or so from Anawalt, where I lived. Gramma's name was Lina Manona Sadler Jones and she was like a wondrous grandmother for me. Except for the chicken thing....

Gramma kept chickens and ducks. I ate lots of duck eggs in those days but I wouldn't eat chicken. Gramma also had an outhouse--a two seater (consider who you'd sit next to to have a bowel movement...) I can't come up with a single person....During the cold winter months, the chickens and ducks would lay around the outhouse and you'd have to shoo them out of the way to go in. Human waste decaying produces a remarkable amount of heat. I never thought it was very cold in the outhouse and the birds just wanted to absorb some heat.

When she wanted to fry chicken, Gramma would go out in the yard and pick up one of the chickens, hold it gently in her arms, talk to it softly and then, quicker than the eye could follow, she would wring that chicken's head right off with her hand and throw it away so the gushing blood wouldn't hit us. "Running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" rings really true to me! It was the weirdest thing to watch that chicken run around for a while, spouting blood, before it fell over and Gramma picked it up and took it to the porch to pick off the feathers.

In spite of that experience, I would have probably eaten chicken, but the next step was to singe off the pin feathers with the open flame of her wood cook stove. The smell of that was worse than outhouse smell by a long shot. It made me gag.

So, that's why I didn't eat chicken as a boy. More the loss since I was told by all my cousins that Gramma's fried chicken was the best in the world....

A stranger story than mine was why my father never ate turkey. He grew up on a turkey farm and you didn't eat the cash crop. So, he and his brothers and sister were told turkey tasted dry and stringy and only people in the city would ever eat it. When he left home to work in the coal mines, he stayed in a boarding house. One day he told the woman who ran the boarding house that the meal she served that night was 'the best roast chicken I've ever tasted"

The woman laughed. "That was turkey, Virgil," she told him. She had to take him in the kitchen to show him the carcass before he would believe her.

Ponder what necessary lies we tell children....

Ponder why you don't eat certain things....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.