My kitchen has a strange smell settling over it.
The afternoon seems surreal as I walk in and watch the large, foreign stockpot on the stove. I live on a city block, in an apartment building. There are two dead roosters in this small kitchen on Windsor Avenue. One lays in the sink his feathery white body being plucked. There is much confusion in this kitchen. My son is running back and forth, and Raymond is standing by the sink holding the rooster by his feet. “What is the best amount of time to scald a chicken for optimal plucking?” We should be thinking seconds, not minutes. This is something we realize later, but there is a first for everything. The second rooster sits in a plastic honey bucket on the floor.
I wonder aloud, “Did Ali watch them get killed?”
I’m curious as to what he might have thought. Ali walks into the kitchen and talks about the chickens. What are we doing to the chickens and the continuous, regular question of “why” He is almost four. It’s to be expected.
I watch curiously, realizing that the bird in the honey bucket is soon to be my afternoon project. Raymond has to leave. I try to gather all the information I need to pluck and clean a rooster. It’s a quick fifteen minute tutorial that doesn’t quite seem adequate as I stand cautiously next to the limp rooster in the bucket. The door closes behind Raymond, and I am left looking at the rooster and watching my son run about the kitchen screaming for me to give him blender parts so he can cook too. I pull the rooster out of the bucket. I dip him into the stockpot and watch his wings fan out. I pull him out and stare in amazement at his body. He lays in the sink and I pull at his thick white feathers and they come out in a full clump. The skin comes along too. I don’t know that the temperature of the water actually determines how easily the feathers come out, and if the skin comes off. I dunk the rooster again. It’s an odd, awkward process of me explaining to Ali that I’m cleaning the rooster so we can eat him. I am wondering how in the world I will manage to eat something I don’t even understand how to clean. I realize that once I have plucked the chicken I will have to cut the vent. They make it seem so pleasant in the pictures. I stand with my head tilted over the sink staring at the rear of this rooster with the most perplexed look. I have a feeling many things could go wrong at this junction. It seems my new Christmas boning knife is coming into action sooner than I had thought. There is a moment when I consider not doing it. I could just put the rooster in the fridge and let Raymond do it when he gets home.
So I pluck feathers, and then I take my Christmas knife and discover the mistakes that can be made when cleaning your first rooster. Thus, I am left with the funny smell in my kitchen. It smells somewhat like what cleaning a rooster turns out to be for me. Not quite pleasant, but not so unpleasant that I would leave.
I look in my fridge. I was vegetarian for ten years. I never could have imagined being at this junction in my life. Watching two dead roosters, and knowing that I would have to prepare one. I am slowing going backwards in this process. I know how to make chicken stock complete with chicken heads and feet. Now I know how to pluck and clean a chicken. Raymond says there are more roosters that will have to be killed. This is part of my experience of understanding where my food comes from. I will kill an animal for food. He tells me it’s easier than one might think. I stand there and wonder about that statement as my son runs around me screaming. “Rock n’ Roll! My heart is in my belly…..”