chicken feet and other weirdnesses
This morning, while packing lunches, wrangling breakfast dishes, and keeping an ear cocked for sibling trouble, I decided to make mayonnaise. (Because apparently it’s not multi-tasking until you’re actually doing four things at once).
I enlisted Col to read the directions from this indispensable book while I stood poised with ingredients and whisk. (My prior mayo recipe was unreliable; sometimes perfect, sometimes an oily flop. And washing a greasy food processor ranks just above extracting my own splinters with my teeth.)
Col read. I whisked. “Continue this until you have a thick yellow sauce,” Col recited, while a golden emulsion sprung from my hands. The mayo turned out so voluminously whipped, fluffy and yellow, Rose was finger-testingly certain I had actually made lemon frosting.
“This makes me so happy!” I announced, whisking in juicy squeezes of lemon.
“How happy did that make you, Mama?” Col asked with all the wryness of a 9-year old who’s got my number.
Well, shit. Extremely happy.
Which is to say, as happy as I was to add creepy chicken feet to the latest batch of bone broth. (Chicken feet clipped off the carcass of our own hen who, no fooling, fatally impaled herself on an elk antler, leading to chicken anatomy lessons, chicken enchiladas, chicken soup and the best broth ever.) Or as happy as I was to get this text last week from Dan at 7:15 am, on his way to Mancos to do an energy audit, “fresh deer backie tonight!” I read it aloud: we all cheered. Translation: found roadkill deer and am bringing home the backstraps (prized for tenderness). Put the champagne on ice, baby. (metaphorically speaking; still off the booze).
Sometimes it feels like the Standard American Diet is a slippery slope off of which I’ve been belaying myself for years, each year certain that I’ve finally reached the bottom. Back when I was scooping homely clouds of spelt flour from the bulk bins into plastic bags, I was pretty sure there was nowhere left to fall. And now spelt, according to my current diet, is somewhere between toxic and satanic. I feel confessional admitting that we haven’t bought a loaf of bread in weeks.
I’m not even sure how these things happen exactly. How one decade you’re eating cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and the next there’s not a crumb of wheat flour in the house and you wake to your husband sauteing a symphony of vegetables and you’ve never seen anything sexier. I heard someone say recently, “I’d stop eating donuts if I had a good reason to.” I totally get this. I can’t tell if I’m blessed or cursed by my motherfreaking good reasons.
I want to heal as completely as possible, and yet there’s a very large part of me that goes cartoonishly blank when I try to imagine a June afternoon, or evening campfire without a beer. Every day I gather gorgeous eggs from our chickens, eggs which are still off my diet. I could share some recent recipes but I wonder, does anyone really want a recipe for grain-free pizza crust or applesauce-sweetened chocolate truffles? (This is not a rhetorical question.)
It feels like the domino theory of kitchen history. Fat free gummy bears leads to low fat cream cheese leads to whole wheat flour leads to spelt flour leads to gluten-free flour leads to rubbery chicken feet throwing their health-giving gelatin into broth. (Or soy sauce to tamari to coconut aminos). As my friend (who’s also healing an auto-immune condition through diet) said, “we’re really not so weird, for 1903 anyway.”
So, I keep getting weirder, sending the kids off with bread-free lunches, with root cellar apples, which now, in March, boast other adjectives besides “crisp.” Bless their little palates, they love these pocked and softening apples; they eat bowls of homemade yogurt which is the very definition of plain; they still have fervered dreams of sweet things swaddled in bright wrappers, but they squeal with happiness over a dessert of dried fruit. I don’t know if I’m at the beginning of something or the end, or where exactly this is going, but if a chicken has to die, I’ll take the feet.