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A Poached Chicken

I remember when my grandmother taught me how to poach a chicken. She cut the wet bald bird out of its tight wrapper and it slid into the sink, as if a baby born from an amniotic sack. New life. Picking up it’s legs, she made it dance to her da-da-daas before scrubbing it with water and a sponge, getting me to laugh at the bird bath. She reached her hand up through the bird’s fanny and pulled out various organs: a neck, a heart, a gizzard, a liver, but probably none of its own. Maybe they were all from the chickens who she pecked with up until they were all slaughtered. Friends even in death. Friends even in gravy, where the organs were all headed. But actually, there was no head. “Where are its eyes and beak, grandma?” “They ringed its neck off right about here,” grandma explained as she whirled her arm around in a violent circle, demonstrating the snapping of a bird’s neck to her little granddaughter who laughs at a naked bird’s dance.  The water was seasoned with salt, pepper, celery, carrots, onions, and garlic before grandma lowered her down into the big, boiling pot, where she steeped for a good hour or so.  Simmering and bubbling, the bird’s nakedness turned tender and sweet, savory and juicy, a real prize for all of our efforts at preparing her. Easing her out of the pot onto a platter, her bones fell out of their joints and her meat held loosely under her skin. Grandma gently arranged the chicken soaked vegetables around her, an edible arrangement of condolences and thanks, delicious when dipped in gizzard and neck gravy.  After squeezing a halved lemon, drizzling olive oil and sprinkling salt over her skin, one last burial rite, we sat together at the kitchen table with her and said a thankful prayer. A life given. And we ate.

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