I talked with a friend yesterday about cooking, admitting that I’m cooking a lot more meat lately than I have in years. (In case you haven’t been following along, I started eating meat again fairly recently.) My friend responded that she cooks only certain types of meat because she is unsure of what to do with it; bones, ligaments, skin–I get it. It can be a lot to stomach.
So it surprised me when I decided to not only purchase a whole chicken but get excited about cooking it. When I first started eating meat again, I stuck to pre-cooked types of “meat” like chicken tenders and sausage. They were just more manageable. But knowing that those foods were processed and held limited nutritional value for me, I decided to bite the carnivorous bullet and start buying cuts of beef and whole chickens.
I decided that the Crockpot would be my best bet on this one, not that I haven’t cooked whole birds before (I must say I have made a mean, brined turkey in my past) but that I wanted it to be as hands-off as possible. However, I forgot that when dealing with a whole chicken, “hands-off” doesn’t apply. Before dumping my ingredients into the Crockpot, I had to clean the chicken and remove the neck and innards that are always so neatly placed inside the cavity of the animal. At this point, I knew it was a necessary evil to have to handle kidneys. I rinsed the bird and moved it to my prep area for a garlic and spice rub. My hands ran over the skin of this small bird, who had been running around this earth not long ago. I grazed the ribcage as I smeared salt and paprika inside the kidney-hiding place. I tried not to think too much about the spine and knob of bone where a head belonged.
If you’re a veg, I’ve probably lost you by now.
If you eat meat, here is a new reason to go unprocessed: literally get in touch with your food. By handling the animal, looking at its parts, feeling where life used to be, I connected with my food. I felt a sense of pity but also graciousness for the chicken who will be my dinner. By understanding the process, my meal becomes more than a lifeless hunk of protein; it allows me to participate in the life cycle, and for that I am grateful.