My girls are not just egg producers. They're pets too. Just as I wouldn't be cool with eating one of the family dogs, I wouldn't want to deep fry one of my fat biddies. My husband and I often talk in the "one day when we" sort of way about the farm we wish we had. We joke that we'll need two sets of chickens. We'll have a set of layers that I'll name and fawn over and who become my pets and then we'll have The Meat House birds who I won't name, tend to, or become too greatly involved with because they will be slated for our dinner table. I told my husband that I'd start sneaking birds into my layer flock while he'd be worrying about his dwindling numbers, saying things like, "I don't know what's going on. We've lost four birds in two weeks. Do you think a hawk's getting them? Hey, didn't we have twenty-five layers? There are twenty-nine out here." I might have an overactive imagination, but that's exactly what would happen.
During the summer I read a memoir called Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole. I've mentioned it before. She's a food writer and tests tons of recipes. In the course of raising chicks, she realizes her guilt at preparing chicken and has a major freak out moment as she thinks about the chickens in her backyard who she loves and who she's raised from baby chicks while she's supposed to roast chicken. She ponders whether she can continue to cook chicken and be okay with it. I don't know if I'm not as good of a person as she is, but I do not have such problems when it comes to supermarket chicken. I can be in my kitchen and look out the window at my girls pecking around in their run and be rubbing down a delicious chicken thigh with whatever concoction of spices I've come up with that day. I don't feel word about it. I don't have to see those grocery store chickens in their feathered glory strutting around my backyard and going crazy over a head of cabbage. I'm fine with them. Am I making exceptions. Uh, yeah. Who doesn't? Do I care that I probably sound deranged to someone not in my head? No. I'm good with it. I can't feel guilt for every animal that becomes food. I'd go crazy. I make that statement knowing I'm already crazy. I do get quite jazzed up about the treatment of factory farm animals, but I've always been concerned with the ethical treatment of animals. And I make no secret of the fact that I speak to my chickens like they know what I'm saying, but I do that with my dogs too. All dog owners do. Right?
Let me make one point clear. I do not in any way take issue with people raising chickens for meat. If I did, I would be beyond crazy. Chicken is delicious. I hope I have made my feelings on that point clear. I don't think that I have it in me to make myself detached enough from my chickens to kill them. Would they make the most delicious chicken thighs I've ever had? I don't doubt it. Their eggs are so delicious that they must be just as delicious themselves. I'm too much of a "girl."
Now I'm off to find a good recipe for drumsticks. I have a pack in the fridge (from Trader Joe's - love that place!) that's set for dinner tomorrow night. Maybe I'll name them before I cook them. At some point I've got to stop stealing hypothetical birds from The Meat House.