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chicken feet and other weirdnesses

2014 March 5
by Rachel Turiel

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.


p.s. old mayo recipe changed to reflect new happiness-bringing hand-whisking one. Credit to dearheart Alana.



27 Responses leave one →
  1. mollie permalink
    March 6, 2014

    I like your weirdness. And yes please on the applesauce-sweetened chocolate truffle recipe.

  2. Jo Hadley permalink
    March 6, 2014

    I second the motion for the chocolate truffle recipe. And yes, it strikes me often what a fascinating time lapse photograph it would be of my refrigerator and pantry over the past twenty years. I used to feel virtuous eating sour patch kids because they were NONFAT! I wonder what healthy food discoveries will be next and what my next fridge will look like. It’s hard to believe it could evolve again. I feel like the homemade chicken broth (go feet and heads!) is the ultimate destination. We’ll see…

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 7, 2014

      time lapse fridge photo!

  3. March 6, 2014

    if there were a prize for the oddest photo in my reader this week, your chicken feet would win :)

  4. March 6, 2014

    Yes, I want and need your grain free and beyond recipes! I was so happy when you turned down this road that I, too, never EVER thought I would travel.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 7, 2014

      I want to hear your unexpected story.

  5. Barb permalink
    March 6, 2014

    a vote here for grain-free pizza crust recipe. Also sending lotsa love to all!

  6. Sara Parks permalink
    March 6, 2014

    Really like it! You are one snappy-worded gal!

  7. Bree permalink
    March 6, 2014

    So tragic about your poor chicken, but I do agree that those feet make the best broth so you’ve got to use them! We’re not grain-free but I feel just as weird when my kids cheer for liver and onions or beg for fermented beets as a side-dish. Weird is healthy.

  8. March 6, 2014

    How is it that I have never read your blog before? Wonderful stuff. :) I’ll be back often.

  9. Molly permalink
    March 6, 2014

    Yes, I want your awesome recipes and to hear loads more about your diet. I love your blog and we eat are on the same diet plan as your family so it’s wonderful to hear about how you go about feeding your family and I love seeing pics of your garden. We live and farm in Maine. Thanks for your wonderful essays.

  10. Andrea permalink
    March 6, 2014

    I have been waiting patiently for this post. Wondering what’s happening on your plate. Good stuff! Yes to recipes, chicken feet, parallel lives. Keep on cooking.

  11. shadymama permalink
    March 6, 2014

    i want the truffle recipe!!! and the grain free crust! and anything else, because you are a smashingly-good-multi-tasking-cookin’-lady.

  12. Nikki permalink
    March 6, 2014

    I love your blog. I identify with so many parts of it. You are an amazing talented writer. Also, Recipes please!

    A fellow “Paleo-minus the eggs-night shades-and fruit” homeschooler/unschooler/ life learner Momma. And for someone who hates labels, I sure have a lot of labels.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 7, 2014

      You’re kidding!
      Feeling less alone already.

  13. March 6, 2014

    This is such a lively and interesting post! Lovely balance between action and reflexion :o)

    I’ve had the same perplexities over my own diet until I realized that, in a society where all basic food has been industrialized and refined beyond recognition (from wheat and sugar to “non-organic” dairy or chickens), it’s not so surprising that most people develop a kind or allergy or another, or even autoimmune responses.

    This, from a girl whose diet used to be based approximately on 70 % bread, in one form or another (I had breakfast four times a day when I was a student ;o) and who now not only has celiac’s, but also a growing intolerance to other (organic) grains. And soy, and dairy. *sigh*

    But you know what? My meals are so much more satisfying now, and my guests love them: “My, this is delicious! And what you cook is always so unusual.” – Really? When in fact I just add cocoa powder (and a pear or two, and cardamom) in my black bean purée, or black beans and sweet potato in my hot cocoa (etc.), all the time and without thinking. It just makes sense.

    Because what happens when you start listening to your body, is that your intuition guides you happily through a whole new world, wholesome AND palatable. And often addictive. So don’t despair – there might be a wonderful alternative to beer that is just waiting for you to discover it. :o)

    • March 6, 2014

      ps – Yes indeed for grain-free pizza crust! And have you tried sweetening your truffles with sweet potato? :o)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 7, 2014

      “But you know what? My meals are so much more satisfying now, and my guests love them: “My, this is delicious! And what you cook is always so unusual.”

      Aint it the truth?

      When you’re not relying on grains, there’s so much more room for FLAVOR.

      Also, I’ve watched Dan slowly come over to my weird side. Our meals are looking more and more similar by the month.

  14. Susan S permalink
    March 6, 2014

    I vote for the grain-free pizza crust recipe! Going to see a naturopath on Saturday to help me look at alternative ways of establishing and maintaining good health. So VERY much looking forward to it! Also, homemade chicken broth is simply not. to. be. beat.

  15. Ellie permalink
    March 6, 2014

    Rachel, I like hearing about your journey to health, but what’s truly weird is that I have reached the point at which I don’t even care what you write about–I just like to read your words. Also, your children will thank you for teaching them to eat plain yogurt. I grew up eating plain yogurt in Eastern Europe (there was no other, and yogurt was always revered as a wholesome food), and to this day, if stranded on a dessert island with one thing to bring from civilization, I’d pick a cow and some yogurt bacteria.

  16. Mikel permalink
    March 7, 2014

    You should try Charlie’s hard cider made from the fall apple harvest…much better than the store bought overly sweet options.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 7, 2014

      Crossing my fingers that by apple season my system can handle some booze.

  17. March 7, 2014

    Oh man! That was a good one (I am totally there with you with the constant transition to more weirdness…).

  18. July 4, 2014

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