Chickens, Pig Heads and other stuff

When I was very young, meat and chicken came from the butcher wrapped neatly in white paper. As I got older and started cooking it came wrapped in see-through film.

We moved to Ireland and everything was pretty much the same – except at Easter. I was wandering through the market and saw a display of pig's heads. Naturally, I assumed they were plastic Easter decorations. I was wrong. As I drew closer I could see that they were real, live….er, dead….pig heads, just propped along the counter top, looking at me. Did one just buy a head, tuck it under one's arm and walk home? How did one cook a head? Did one put an apple in it's mouth? This one was having none of it. We had fish.

The first time we visited Andorra (1994) even in the fanciest supermarket (there were only 2) there were rabbits hanging from meat hooks along the counter – your choice: skinned or un-skinned. I didn't really warm to the idea that people would go to a supermarket, buy meat, then take it home, skin and butcher it. By the time we moved there the un-skinned rabbits were gone (they were now all skinned) but the chickens still came with head and feet attached – para la sopa (for the soup) I was told. I figured I could deal with that – just let mon mari take care of it.

So, it was autumn, we had just moved, the days were warm and lovely. We decided to have barbecued chicken. I bought the chicken – a whole chicken. I don't mean a whole, ready-to-cook chicken (which is what I thought I had bought) but a whole chicken. As I was making the barbecue sauce I heard some strong language coming from the other side of the kitchen. I thought ' big deal, so he has to cut the feet off – he always likes an excuse to get out the big cleaver'. Once again, I was wrong (must stop that!). He also had to gut the chicken. Though extremely handy around the house, mon mari has never aspired to being a true outdoors man – he doesn't gut critters. I left the room, to play a few games of FreeCell and let him have some privacy to deal with the problem (mainly so I didn't have to watch – I am a bit squeamish). He did. When I came back he had very neatly boned the entire chicken leaving the carcass – and its contents – intact and untouched!

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