Kelly and Patrick, the bee family with the awesome home recently had us over for chicken...quite literally.
their 5 chickens have been well past egg-laying and they have brought 4 chicks in to replace them...so the time came to honor and remove the old chickens and welcome the new life that will be supplying this wonderful family with eggs for the next few years.
i have to admit, this was kind of hard for me. i havent had the taste of chicken in over 15 years and really do not miss it-still cant get over the massive-scale commercial meat/poultry industry that we have.
the main reason i decided to not eat meat comes directly out of the environmental and human impacts of our current meat industry: it is damaging our planet and the treatment of both the animals and people who process them (and i use the term process b/c there is a lack of respect for animals in this industry) is something that i cannot support.
but i have to respect this little urban farm in Santa Ana has cherished the these chickens have become a part of their family and lives and they are making a whole event for it-honoring their lives in a celebration. if i had the space to do something like this-i certainly would, fresh eggs cannot be beat and these birds have had a great life eating organic greens from their large yard, allowed to run and lay on the grass in the afternoon sun, heck their coop is bigger than my kitchen!
(hanging the birds)
(the next generation of little chicks-they were still shy)
one thing about the day was how long it took-talk about SLOW FOOD! the event started at 2, but we didnt get to sit and eat until after 9PM-kind of puts the whole farm-to-table thing in perspective...having poultry isn't just going to the store and opening a styrofoam container. everybody at the house had a job preparing the meal.
(dipping the chickens to remove feather is a labor-intensive job)
(preparing to gut the chickens)
Kelly and Patrick are lucky in that they have an outdoor cooking area. i would highly recommend this as the de-feathering and gutting is pretty messy (our little Marge was all over the outdoor kitchen hoping for a little morsel to fall)!
pretty much the entire bird was used for some purpose: the undeveloped eggs (next image below-my fave) were cooked and many said that they were really good (my mom told me later that in Mexico her grandmother would put these in a soup and they were really yummy), the innards were cooked down into another dish, the water from cooking, bones and other parts were used to make stock and was frozen, and some of the other parts (skin, fat, extra trimmings) were given to me to make organic food for Marge.
(as much as this is graphic, i really like this shot)
(the gizzard-still with seeds)
(Marge: finally getting comfortable in the garden)
there were several differences that i also noticed. the birds were about 5-6 years old, pretty old from what people were saying-therefore they were going to have to be cooked for long periods of time (i guess this is where Coq au Vin came from-old rooster in wine). one person mentioned that the average age of a commercial bird was 4 months-which baffled me, imagine what had to be put into the animal in order to make it big enough (which is why i stopped eating it)!
another thing i noticed was the how the skin and flesh of the birds were a little more complex and richer that what i would see at the local store, i was used to poultry being so pale. also, there was a large amount of fat and thicker skin on these birds.
i also noticed flavor. this was very similar to tasting a REAL, local tomato for the first time after eating the store crap-it tastes more tomatoey right? same with chicken, you had a richer more pungent flavor-something that i must admit i dont miss.
(boiled chicken for enchiladas)
(beautiful -ready to be Coq au Vin)
(Kelly also having a sample of her chicken after over 15 years without)
(the festive spread-a night of thanks!)