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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: COVID Kitchen Adventure

Holly Heyser

Occasionally, it’s like I’ve been dropped on my head and lost clear reason—in those times I decide to delve into my backlog of “well-this-looks-pretty-good” recipes and cook something more involved than my go-to Ramen noodles. The weather being cooler, the pandemic raging so that stay-at-home is the order of the day, and the major eating season looming over us, I had one of those culinary days not so long ago.

Now understand, I had a child, so family food production is something with which I’ve had more than a passing acquaintance. Probably the reason that I only have a moderate interest now; I’ve done that, I know that I can do that and I have no need to prove that I can do that. Besides, there are perfectly good restaurants out there—well, maybe not so much anymore . . . But food must be consumed until they reopen, so, home-cooking is what there is. Producing something new and different is the challenge. Ever hear of chicken bog? The end-product looked tasty in the magazine.

Three being the largest family in which I ever have lived, mass quantities are not my thing, but I’m decent at small offerings. As I produce these little bits, I think of the Belgian exchange student who lived with my son and his family for a year. Thibault was a delightful young man, and as they say, a good eater. About 6’3” and thin as the proverbial rail, despite being a chowhound. When he would wander through the kitchen during food-preparation time, if he deemed that there didn’t seem to be quite the quantity for which he was hoping, he would walk away muttering, “I guess that we’ll all be just a little bit hungry tonight.” Poor thing would have had lots of those evenings in my small household.

But, this autumn, I went hog-wild and prepared a dish that required a whole chicken. Sausage and vegetables too. Over rice. This was a real stretch for me both in quantity and in cooking-desirability. Usually, I’m wary of chicken for a couple of reasons. First, I’m a bit squeamish because in the back of my mind I think that if I eat chicken, I’ll probably get salmonella and die. Second, when I was in anatomy class back in Louisville, not being pre-med we didn’t have cadavers, so Miss Earhart often illustrated anatomy lessons by harking back to cutting up a chicken. Thus, I have that connection: chicken and cadavers. Not an appetizing connection. And, this recipe was going to produce a reasonably large pot of food: a real commitment. Nonetheless, I “manned-up” and proceeded to dismember the little sucker. Removing its skin (step 1) was rather like taking the pajamas off of a small child—if that child was in the emergency room and some of its clothing had to be cut off. Then, (step 2), cutting it into quarters: again the kitchen shears came into play as did listening to those bones snap as I cut them. Squeamishness was in full flight now! I thought of my former co-worker who is a very selective eater. Mention a foodstuff that isn’t to her liking and that little nose wrinkled right up. If I had been able to see myself, I expect that I would have tied her in nose-wrinkling reactions. But the worst was over. The only other “icky” step was taking the sausage out of the casing and then I was on safe turf: spice, slice, and rice.

Episodes like this give me a huge respect for our foremothers. First off, those women would have killed that chicken and removed its feathers. And not carried on.
You would think that a woman who engaged in years of child-rearing without falling back onto frozen dinners might be more seasoned, but it’s all in the selection of repertoire. Being selective in menu-choice really did make it easy as I landed somewhere between chicken-killer and champion-defroster. And, despite the iffy start, at the close of my culinary-day, the end-product looked tasty on our table. Gives one the spine to maybe face another whole chicken one day.

Music: Chicken Dance