“Chicken Alive”

Last night we all went to bed far earlier than the night, or rather the early morning, before, but it must have been too early for Gracie because she woke me up around 3:30 wanting to go out so we did. It was darn cold, and I hadn’t put on my sweatshirt so I urged Gracie to be quick. She was as she doesn’t like the cold either. I’m keeping an eye and an ear on Gracie as I heard her sniffing and snorting last night and this morning. She may have a cold so I’ll wait today but take her to the vet’s tomorrow for a check-up if she keeps snorting.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was the parade, M&M’s, walnuts and dinner. In school, we colored turkeys on work sheets to help pass the time. I remember coloring each feather on the turkey’s tail a different color. I hadn’t ever seen a turkey so I envisioned it more like the peacock I had seen in the zoo.

Wild turkeys are all over the place here on the cape and even in Boston where they have been known to attack people. I see them often on my street. Usually they travel in a group with one Tom and a bunch of females. The Tom always seems to be strutting, letting the world know he has a harem. The wild turkeys can fly. They even roost on branches. When they fly, they look lumbering like some military cargo planes.

I learned so many things when I was in the Peace Corps in Ghana. One of my skills, a seldom used skill, is cleaning chickens, plucking their feathers. In the market, I got to pick my chicken, my dinner for the night. I could never dispatch the chicken to wherever chickens go when they become dinner so Thomas, who worked for me, did the dispatching. He got the feet and head for his troubles and usually cooked them for himself. Foot and head stew is what I called it. The now dispatched chicken is dipped in boiling water to loosen the pinions. After that pull off the tail feathers first then the smaller feathers. My hands got tired when I plucked so I usually left the final cleaning, the pulling off of whatever was left, to Thomas. What surprised me was how skinny chickens are without their feathers. These were always free range chickens. Nobody had coops or fenced in areas. My chickens, except the brooding hens, left the yard in the morning and returned at night. I never knew where they went.

Before I left for Ghana, I read books the Peace Corps recommended, and I read the material the Peace Corps sent. I knew about the regions, a bit about languages, the tribal system, crops and the prevalent diseases, but I knew nothing about buying live chickens let alone how to pluck them. Why would I? Chickens never entered my mind before I left, and in my whole life I never thought about plucking them. Chickens came in packages from the meat counter, but out of necessity and being partial to eating chicken, I learned to pluck. Should that skill ever be needed here, I’m all set.

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18 Comments on ““Chicken Alive””

  1. olof1 Says:

    The animals have mostly wanted to stay indoors today, it hasn’t been that bad to be honest or cold but still it hasn’t been nice. It is actually better now in the evening when it actually is colder 🙂 Tomorrow a low pressure will pass with, perhaps, lots of snow at first but then strong warm winds will come and everything we’ll get and already have will melt away again. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all wants to go outside and in again all day long 🙂 🙂

    I know in theory how to pluck chickens but I doubt I would manage to do it in real 🙂 So I’m hoping I never have to try 🙂

    Have a great day!


    • katry Says:

      We had a great day today with a bit of warmth and the sun, but that will end tomorrow when it will start getting more seasonable, much colder than now. We did have a wild wind for a while today.

      Gracie doesn’t mind the wind. She hates the rain. I think it might be a boxer thing as none of my dogs wanted to go out.

      I came to appreciate super market chic ken where you can choose the part of the chicken or buy a while one to roast. Plucking is a lot of work.

      Have a great evening!!

  2. Hedley Says:

    I am waiting patiently. friends, relatives and chums descend tomorrow, Alice’s Restaurant shows up on Thursday, internet specials have been promised, Mrs MDH’s Christmas gifts are very slowly emerging from the fog of my brain and maybe most important….

    This afternoon Tottenham Hotspur Football Club travel to the Ruhr Valley to play the Bochum Belle’s BVB in the Champions League. When Birgit and I first circled this match, we anticipated that it would be critical to both teams. However Spurs have already qualified for the next round and Dortmund’s chances are very poor.

    The game shows at 2.45 on ESPN3, I will tune in and wish horrible things upon Birgit and the odious BVB.

    • Birgit Says:

      Welcome Spurs and hi Hedley! I follow on BVB live-radiostream which just started, unfortunately it’s not on TV. Needless to say that I still hope for a miracle 🙂 Or at least a good match though we don’t have a chance.
      Kat, as Hedley wrote it’s safe to cheer for Tottenham.
      Plucking chickens (post) and the Tottenham cockerel (club emblem) is probably just sheer coincidence 🙂

    • katry Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      Yup, it will be Alice’s Restaurant on Thursday, our Coffee tradition. I do enjoy that song. Arlo was so young back then, as were we all. I’m glad to hear you have a list in mind for Mrs. MDH. I have one sister who never knows what she wants so my other sister and I have to get together and figure something out.

      I will not take sides though I have chosen Tottenham as my football club. Odious? Poor Birgit to have such an adjective thrust upon her and her team!!

  3. BG Says:

    I enjoyed your tale of chicken-plucking, but from a different perspective than most readers. My maternal grandmother was a farm wife and I remember spending time with them in the post-war years, watching her plucking and cleaning a lot of chickens. However — and if you’re squeamish you might not want to keep reading — I most vividly remember how she began the process. She’d run among the chickens and grab the one she wanted, then hold it by its legs and place its head on the ground. Next she’d step firmly on its head while pulling the feet in the other direction. The head would pop off and she’d fling the headless chicken away, where it would walk a few steps before finally collapsing. Strange but true.

    • katry Says:

      Okay, you were right about squeamish, and I ignored your warning. My dinners were always dispatched quickly with a single cut to the neck. They were then put upside down with a basin underneath. I couldn’t pull the head off, even reading it makes me grimace.

      I can attest to the dead chicken walking. We were having company for Thanksgiving (not celebrated in Ghana of course, but we did), so we had bought 3 or 4 chickens. We couldn’t find a turkey that year though we’d find one the next year. The dead chickens were put in a huge basin and they’d jump, well sort of, right out of the basin. Each had a bit of life after death!

  4. sprite Says:

    Interestingly, I wrote a post recently for my work blog about ocellated turkeys, which are the only other extant species of turkey. They’re native to to the Yucatan Peninsula area and were once thought to be related to peacocks because of their bright, iridescent plumage and blue heads. So you weren’t far off as a kid, you were just channeling the wrong type of turkey!

    • katry Says:

      That’s funny! There I was coloring an ocellated turkey without knowing they existed. I was obviously ahead of my time!

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