Last Tuesday was a bright blue, sunny day. I felt energized and ready for something new. It seemed to be a typical day filled with cooking, homeschooling, cleaning and hosting. I also had a shopping trip planned, and little did I know that it would be the adventure I was waiting and ready for!
I’ve been looking for chicken. I can buy half-frozen chicken breasts at the nearby grocery store, but it’s often freezer-burnt and tough. So I’ve been on the lookout for fresh chicken. One of my Chinese friends, Alan, offered to take me to a place that has fresh chicken. GREAT! I was so excited. At 2:00 in afternoon I gathered my purse, a shopping bag, and a pen and paper so I could write down how to say this place in Chinese. Maybe later I could go again on my own.
Lili and I walked downstairs and jumped in a taxi with Alan as our guide. Turns out, Alan hadn’t actually been there before; he had just heard about it. After exiting our taxi we wandered around the neighborhood with Alan quizzing the locals in Chinese. They would say something really fast and point this way and that. We had to walk down a narrow alley for a ways, then down another alley until we finally came to some apartment houses. Inside one home, an apartment on the ground floor, we found a lady standing by her pen of chickens–live chickens clucking and walking around. I wasn’t quite expecting chicken THIS fresh! I also hadn’t planned to give my 4-year-old such a “gut wrenching” cultural lesson!
The lady gave the prices, then told us that it would take just 5 minutes. So, we thought it might be good to take Lili for a little walk while this procedure was taking place. We walked further down the alley, discussing things like flowers and Chinese food … (though we could hear everything that was happening.) In just a few minutes the lady had the clucking chicken beheaded, plucked, gutted, and in a bag. Lili and I were only slightly traumatized by the event. I felt mostly triumphant and excited about my first, very fresh chicken.
As I stood holding the bag, I also began to feel a little nervous about cooking the thing. It was a little disconcerting to me that I could still feel the chicken’s body heat through the bag. Would I have to touch this thing to cook it? Did I know how to cut it once it was cooked? Important questions I hadn’t thought of. After consulting a cookbook, I chopped up some veggies and put them in a big pot. Then, clutching a fork and a spatula, I carefully maneuvered the chicken to the pot. Whew! I was glad that part was over. After putting a few dashes of spices in the pot, I covered it up and waited for it to not look so “fresh” anymore.
In less than an hour I was lifting the cooked chicken out of the delicious broth. After pulling the ligaments apart (not my favorite thing to do) and cutting the meat off the bone, the job was done. After one taste of my fresh chicken, I knew it was all worth it!