I believe that it’s important for everyone to know where their food comes from. It’s one of the things I value, especially when we talk about how food gets from vendor/farmer/producer to kitchen to table. I’ve learned that if I know where things come from, the impact of their production on the environment, and their impact on our bodies, then I have a deeper understanding, appreciation, and respect for the farmers, the factory workers, the vendors, and the animal. Most of my education around vegetables and seafood came at a much older age when I graduated college and entered my “responsible” age. It wasn’t really until the push for organic and local fare that I started to educate myself around food culture, food politics, and general healthy living. Meat, however, was something that I learned about at a young age. Thanks to a childhood memory from a trip to Taiwan, I didn’t need to be taught about meat or where it came from …
The main form of short distance transportation in Taiwan is done via scooter – slow speed vespas with the shell of motorcycles. Because of their slow speed, you commonly see parents using them to take their children to school, the local store, or the farmers market down the street. And since I saw a bunch of kids riding around on them, I too wanted to do that. It was fun, exhilarating, and free. Plus, I felt like I was speeding down the country roads of Taiwan, until I saw the jogger next to me run by the scooter that my Aunt and I were riding. I didn’t care though; it was fun to be able to ride around on a scooter and I found any excuse to get on the back of one of those machines.
One year, my Aunt asked me if I wanted to go with her to run some errands for dinner. I knew she was going to take the scooter, so I jumped at the chance. We went to the farmers market and picked up some vegetables from various stands and after a few stops, ended at a vendor who had a bunch of chickens in cages. “Wait, we are buying a new animal for our farm? A pet!? awesome!”. I was so excited to see all the chickens; although they were not the baby chicks that I would have melted for, these chickens were still cute in their own way. In my limited Taiwanese, I was able to understand that she wanted me to pick out a chicken; I assumed that she wanted me to choose our new pet.
I inspected each cage carefully. There were three to four chickens in each cage and I wanted to make sure that
each one had its chance to show off its greatness. I wanted to make sure I made the right choice so that on future visits to Taiwan, the chicken I selected would be waiting to greet me at the door upon my arrival to the farm. Finally, I picked out the chicken I wanted, pointed to it and said, “那個.” She leaned over to the man who owned the shop and told him which one I had chosen and with a quick thrust, his hands grabbed my chicken by its legs and pulled it out of the cage. I had a feeling that something got lost in translation, especially when I saw him pull a sharp blade out of his pocket I knew that I the fate I had pictured for little “Wilmur” was no longer the happy ending I had planned. Within minutes the chicken had its neck slit and was thrown into a large barrel to quickly go to “sleep.” I was in shock.
Once the chicken stopped moving in the tub, I thought the nightmare was finally over. But I was wrong. The vendor then reached in and grabbed the chicken and put it in a tub that I can only describe as a giant washing machine with an exposed window on the top. In went the chicken , the machine was turned on and around went the chicken. Every cycle of the tumbler I would see the chicken through the opening and with each turn there seemed to be less feathers on the body. Six turns later, the chicken was naked, and ready for the final stage. I think my Aunt finally realized what was going on, it was probably obvious; my mouth was wide open, no more color in my face. She distracted me (although too late) as the vendor cleaned the chicken and packed it up. She then put me on the back of her scooter and we rode back to the house and that night I ate “Wilmer”.
Events like this have taught me a lot of things. I learned that day that “Scott, let’s get a chicken” has many meanings. I also learned too have a better appreciation for animals now. It has even taught me to respect the animals that we eat and all of the parts of the animal. It has taught me to respect the work that butchers and farmers go through. It has also taught me that I need to learn Taiwanese better.
the bones of 1 chicken
1 tsp thyme, dried
2 tbs canola oil
1 tsp oregano, dried
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp rosemary, dried
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 head of garlic, split
2 medium carrots, rough chopped
3 celery stalks, rough chopped
1 medium onion, rough chopped
4 whole shitake, dried
3 qt water
salt and pepper to taste
preheat oven to 375°f
toss bones with thyme, oil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary until fully covered
roast bones on baking sheet until fully browned, about 30 minutes
transfer all contents into a large stock pot and cover bones with water, about 3 qts
add carrots, celery, onion, and dried shitake and turn the stove on low heat
cook broth for at least four hours, until the flavor comes out into the broth
season to taste
**note: for clear broth, skim off the top of the broth and run through cheese cloth when completely cooled
-makes about 4 cups-