Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Food For Thought

Because so many people liked my cat tuna tale, I feel compelled to spill the beans all over the page and purge myself of yet another tragic kitchen catastrophe.

As one of my most memorable mishaps, this one has to do with my first attempt at trying to cut up a whole chicken. Since I'm using this real-life scene as the opener for my novel Bum-bye, I'll do a quick cut/paste job of my first three paragraphs:

Cleaver in hand, I psyche myself up for the slaughter. I’m staring at a dead chicken sprawled out on my mom’s old cutting board. Its wings are bent in a way that say, “I surrender. You win.” I bought it this way at the grocery store, instead of a precut one because it costs $1.29 less to buy it whole. My mom always made it look so simple. I asked her to teach me many times, but she would wave me off and say in her Portuguese-Hawaiian pidgin, “Eh, no worries. Bum-bye, I teach you.” But she got sick in June of ‘84 and died Thanksgiving night, leaving me here six months later in her kitchen, not even knowing how to boil an egg or make a pot of rice.

I really don’t want to do this but I’m sick of Top Ramen and Pop-tarts, so with an uneasy breath, I take a swing at the pink heap of raw carnage. The blunt chop on the wooden board sends a splattering of bloody liquid to my upper lip, which I wipe with my sleeve. The left leg comes off clean and I’m feeling a surge of adrenaline, so I go for the right leg, which unfortunately does not come off. The leg is still attached by threads of muscle and tendon between the thigh joint and the body, so I grasp it and twist. The bone clicks out of the socket, and a blue rubbery vein dangles out. The clammy pimpled chicken skin is pulling back from its flesh, and yellow fat globules are clinging to each other. With both hands, I pull and twist in desperation, but the crunching of bone and tendon is freaking me out.

Reaching into the body cavity, I grasp onto the ribcage and hurl the whole thing across the kitchen. It lands with a splat on the floor by the fridge. I plunge the cleaver into the sink and run my trembling hands through my hair, until I remember they are covered in chicken slime.
Crouching beside the counter on the brown linoleum floor, I can’t control my breathing. “Come on,” I say out loud. “It’s just a chicken.” Retrieving the mutilated carcass, I scoop it up and take it to the sink. I wash it off with hot water and a dab of Palmolive dish soap and place it with its half-severed leg on a cookie sheet.

While the novel is fiction, this scene is not. Neither is the next scene where Gabi gets confronted by her half-baked, soon-to-be stepmother, Wanda, and the chicken never gets cooked because the oven never gets turned on. If you want to know what will happen from there, you'll have to pray the book will get published so you can read it.

In the mean time, let me confess that I have yet to cut up a whole chicken. In fact, preparing chicken of any fashion still gives me the willies if I think too hard about it. I have many other culinary malfunctions up my apron, but those will come later.

Bon appetit!

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