"There never was such a snap and twist of the wrist, such a vampire flick of the jaws over a neck or such a champagne approach to the blood. She’d shake her star-white hair and the bitten-off chicken head would skew off into the corner while she dug her rosy little fingernails in and lifted the flopping, jittering carcass like a golden goblet, and sipped! Absolutely sipped at the wriggling guts! She was magnificent, a princess, a Cleopatra, an elfin queen!"
This post is for friend of chickens: Jesse Jessup
All I have to do is let the chickens out in the morning, so that they can spend the day pecking for trifles in the grasss. I scatter some cracked corn under the bushes to give them a better peck-to-success ration. Then, as dusk comes, I wait for them to file back into their shed and I close the door. You can’t herd them, you just have to wait till they go in of their own accord. I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing my white plastic chair over to Nan’s yard and waiting for them to be done with their day. If I don’t close the door, the chickens may be attacked at night by raccoons or foxes.
Ah, there they go now, filing into their enclosure. The hens are big and brown and fluffy, and their back parts are white with chickenshit and egg laying. The rooster is small and iridescently blue-black. I guess they mate all night, I don’t know. Theres’s a faded sign on the door that says “Every Birdie Welcome.”
“Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business. He told me how surprised y’all is goin’ tuh be if you ever find out you don’t know half as much ‘bout us as you think yo do. It’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty when you ain’t got nothin’ tuh strain against but women and chickens.”
Art by Heather Murray
"Apparently it was mating season for something called the ovenbird. All night long I heard this teacher teacher teacher. Teacher teacher teacher. I was fantasizing about calling the sheriff and getting these ovenbirds hauled away in a paddy wagon. I got up in the morning, shook the scorpions out of my boots, opened the cottage door, and there was a rooster, staring me down. It was tall. I could tell what it was thinking: You’re my size. An unusually tall rooster and it would not let me pass. It lunged and all I could do to save myself was grab something from a nearby lumber pile and swing. I ended up having to go for broke. Double down. Thing just would not let up. Saul came out in his pajamas. Didn’t say a word. Just picked up the dead rooster and started plucking. Then he lit the barbecue coals. All very methodical, as if it had been in the plans from the beginning that I kill this rooster and we eat it, and that’s what we did. I killed it, he cooked it, we ate it. Seemed like he wasn’t mad at me anymore. Thing tasted like rubber bands.”
Drawing: Pablo Picasso
From SPEARVILLE, KANSAS by Cynthia Macdonald
"There were lots of chickens on the farm,
but this one was his pet. He named it
Clarence for that dead big brother
who’d been killed: his arm caught in
the threshing machine. Clarence, a Barred
Plymouth Rock, went everywhere with him.
That day in the ripe berry patch, the patch
where he’d been sent to pick worms off
the fruit, Clarence was beside him,
walking the rows of red Valentine heart berries,
berries you’d have thought Clarence might
have pecked at, but he never did.
So the boy dropped the choicest worms
into Clarence’s mouth, telling him
“good chicken, best chicken.” And his beak
opened almost as if he were a mechanical
marvel. A marvel until he died. Too much
fulfillment can kill you. When the boy
grew up he became a famous surgeon.
The intestinal tract. Sunday: Bible study.
Two of his sons, Billy and Robert,
were born with big strawberry marks
on their faces. But that is surely just
coincidence, surely not just punishment.”
Watercolor by Tracie Thompson
"… Have you ever played a game called ‘Pigs in Clover’? We have just finished a bout of it (with hens instead of marbles) which has lasted for an hour and a half. We are all dead tired except the hired man, who seems to be made of India rubber. He has just gone for a stroll to the beach. Wants some exercise, I suppose. Personally, I feel as if I should never move again. I have run faster and farther than I have done since I was at school. You have no conception of the difficulty of rounding up fowls and getting them safely to bed. Having no proper place to put them, we were obliged to stow some of them inside soap boxes and the rest in the basement. It has only just occurred to me that they ought to have had perches to roost on. It didn’t strike me before. I shall not mention it to Ukridge, or that indomitable man will start making some, and drag me into it, too. After all, a hen can rough it for one night, and if I did a stroke more work I should collapse. My idea was to do the thing on the slow but sure principle. That is to say, take each bird singly and carry it to bed. It would have taken some time, but there would have been no confusion. But you can imagine that that sort of thing would not appeal to Ukridge. There is a touch of the Napoleon about him. He likes his maneuvers to be daring and on a large scale. He said: ‘Open the yard gate and let the fowls come out into the open, then sail in and drive them in a mass through the back door into the basement.’ It was a great idea, but there was one fatal flaw in it. It didn’t allow for the hens scattering. We opened the gate, and out they all came like an audience coming out of a theater. Then we closed in on them to bring off the big drive. For about three seconds it looked as if we might do it. Then Bob, the hired man’s dog, an animal who likes to be in whatever’s going on, rushed out of the house into the middle of them, barking. There was a perfect stampede, and Heaven only knows where some of those fowls are now. There was one in particular, a large yellow bird, which, I should imagine, is nearing London by this time. The last I saw of it, it was navigating at the rate of knots, so to speak, in that direction, with Bob after it barking his hardest. Presently Bob came back, panting, having evidently given up the job. We, in the meantime, were chasing the rest of the birds all over the garden. The thing had now resolved itself into the course of action I had suggested originally, except that instead of collecting them quietly and at our leisure, we had to run miles for each one we captured. After a time we introduced some sort of system into it. Mrs. Ukridge (fancy him married; did you know?) stood at the door. We chased the hens and brought them in. Then as we put each through into the basement, she shut the door on it. We also arranged Ukridge’s soap-box coops in a row, and when we caught a fowl we put it into the coop and stuck a board in front of it. By these strenuous means we gathered in about two thirds of the lot. The rest are all over England. A few may be in Dorsetshire, but I should not like to bet on it.
"So you see things are being managed on the up-to-date chicken farm on good, sound, Ukridge principles. This is only the beginning. I look with confidence for further exciting events. I believe, if Ukridge kept white mice, he would manage to knock some feverish excitement out of it. He is at present lying on the sofa, smoking one of his infernal brand of cigars. From the basement I can hear faintly the murmur of innumerable fowls. We are a happy family; we are, we are, we ARE!
"P. S. Have you ever caught a fowl and carried it to roost? You take it under the wings, and the feel of it sets one’s teeth on edge. It is a grisly experience. All the time you are carrying it, it makes faint protesting noises and struggles feebly to escape.
"P. P. S. You know the opinion of Pythagoras respecting fowls. That ‘the soul of our granddam might haply inhabit a bird.’ I hope that yellow hen which Bob chased into the purple night is not the grandmamma of any friend of mine."
“The flock gets sight of a spot of blood on some chicken and they all go to peckin’ at it, see, till they rip the chicken to shreds, blood and bones and feathers. But usually a couple of the flock gets spotted in the fracas, then it’s their turn. And a few more gets spots and gets pecked to death, and more and more. Oh, a peckin’ party can wipe out the whole flock in a matter of a few hours, buddy, I seen it. A mighty awesome sight. The only way to prevent it—with chickens—is to clip blinders on them. So’s they can’t see.”
“Even the most casual study of the record…would show that strange times to be a Jew have almost always been, as well, strange times to be a chicken.”
IN BACK OF EVERY REALLY THOUGHTFUL CHICKEN
Is some motherly egg or other
Smiling chalkily (although bald)
~Until it gets popped into a pan
Or mauled by a train or marauding elk
But from the leg of that hickory tree
A dappled little pelican leans down on me.
Art and poetry by Kenneth Patchen (1955)
Today Chickens in Literature on tumblr is 1 year old and three peeps shy of 4300 followers. Please join us in celebrating our birthday.
You don’t have to be Jewish to love a good Matzo Ball recipe! We’re still unable to answer that age-old chicken/egg question so Matzo Balls which utilizes both chicken and egg seemed an appropriate posting for our first recipe - that is, if you’re going to eat chickens at all. It’s from Chef Suzanne Tracht, owner of the chophouse Jar in Los Angeles. Chef Tracht is known not only for her Matzo Ball Soup but also for her magnificent Coq au Vin.
Suzanne Tracht’s MATZO BALLS
Crack 2 eggs (kosher optional) into a bowl
Add 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil and whisk
Add matzo ball mix (appx. ½ box if using her preferred Manischewitz)
Incorporate into the egg and oil mixture with a fork
Refrigerate for 10-20 minutes then
Form the balls by pressing “dough” gently together without too much handling (or they’ll toughen.)
Chef Tracht keeps a bowl of water beside her for re-wetting hands while forming. Wetting your hands will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands as much.
Chef’s note: If you’re making them perfectly round you’re probably over-working the mixture.
Add them to your best chicken stock and poach.
Matzo balls will double in size.
If you want to watch the chef do it, there’s this handy video.
We’d like to dedicate this post to a fave tumblrizr, rachelfershleiser (#stocktips!)
You say, Sure, there’s chicken but where’s the literature in this post?
It follows this picture:
“I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
"So I saved out the eggs and baked yesterday. The cakes turned out right well. We depend a lot on our chickens. They are good layers, what few we have left after the possums and such. Snakes too, in the summer. A snake will break up a hen-house quicker than anything. So after they were going to cost so much more than Mr Tull thought, and after I promised that the difference in the number of eggs would make it up, I had to be more careful than ever because it was on my final say-so we took them. We could have stocked cheaper chickens, but I gave my promise as Miss Lawington said when she advised me to get a good breed, because Mr Tull himself admits that a good breed of cows or hogs pays in the long run. So when we lost so many of them we couldn’t afford to use the eggs ourselves, because I could not have had Mr Tull chide me when it was on my say-so we took them. So when Miss Lawington told me about the cakes I thought that I could bake them and earn enough at one time to increase the net value of the flock the equivalent of two head. And that by saving the eggs out one at a time, even the eggs wouldn’t be costing anything. And that week they laid so well that I not only saved out enough eggs above what we had engaged to sell, to bake the cakes with, I had saved enough so that the flour and the sugar and the stove wood would not be costing anything. So I baked yesterday, more careful than ever I baked in my life, and the cakes turned out right well. But when we got to town this morning Miss Lawington told me the lady had changed her mind and was not going to have the party after all."
“Let’s say that when I was a little baby, and all my bones soft and malleable, I was put in a small Episcopal cruciform box and so took my shape. Then, when I broke out of the box, the way a baby chick escapes an egg, is it strange that I had the shape of a cross? Have you ever noticed that chickens are roughly egg-shaped?”
Sculpture “What Came First?” by Kyle Bean
I came by, she said,
and I hung this roasted chicken on your doorknob
and two days later it was still hanging there
swinging in the wind.
you should have seen that thing!
and your car was outside
and the chicken kept swinging
and I said to my husband,
what’s that stink?
he must be dead.
the wind was really blowing that
chicken around, you should have seen that
chicken swing, and I told my husband,
that crazy son-of-a-bitch must be dead
so he got the key and we went in.
yeah, I said, what did you find?
just empty bottles and garbage. you
were gone. you weren’t in
did you look in all the closets?
we looked everywhere, under the bed,
I wonder where I was.
I dunno, where did you get that big scab on your head?
I was toasting a marshmallow on a coat hanger
and burned my fore-
oh, I thought maybe somebody hit you.
uh-uh, I said, uh-uh.
“the chicken” is included in Bukowski‘s collection The People Look Like Flowers at Last (Ecco, 2007)
Image: Kenneth Patchen