California passes “landmark” egg legislation

Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Egg Bill into Law. (Human Society)

Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed landmark legislation that protects animal welfare and food safety. The new law requires that shelled (whole) eggs sold in California comply with the modest but important food safety and animal welfare standards of Proposition 2. Passed in a 2008 landslide, Prop 2 phases out production of eggs from hens crammed into cages.

The bill, A.B. 1437, requires that all whole eggs sold in California as of Jan. 1, 2015, come from hens able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosure, thus requiring cage-free conditions for the birds.

This is good.

Sate marinated game hens

I like game hens. They are like chickens, except in diminutively exact scale. You can eat an entire game hen at one sitting and not feel like a glutton. So I eat two.

One thing that worries: are “game hens” simply baby chickens prematurely slaughtered on a factory farm? Is this a moral quandary for which I’m ill equipped to handle due to my own shortcomings? My failure to subscribe to a moral imperative derived from a careful exploration of Kantian ethics? Or are these really indeed “game” birds that have lived a fruitful life wandering the short brush of Appalachian foothills until they met their untimely fate? I’d prefer to subscribe to the fatalism of the latter, though the former is most likely closer to the inconvenient truth.

In any regards, this is some delicious poultry.

This is a simple recipe for excellent grilled game hens. Since they are small, you can grill them on an open flame without having to spatchcock the bird (though certainly if you want to butterfly it to cut down on cooking time you could).

The marinade is simply a deep rub of the Vietnamese “sate” condiment, a wonderfully reddish and fiery paste of lemongrass, fish sauce, and chilies. My recipe is cribbed straight from Andrea Nguyen, who I considered the Julia Child of Vietnamese cuisine in these here United States.

You can also buy jarred versions of sate (not to be confused with “satay”) sauce at any Asian store that specializes in the Southeast Asian ingredients, and that should work in a pinch. It should be an oily, deep hue of red, with lots of “gritty”-ness (from the aromatic alliums and lemongrass).

Sate Grilled Game Hens

  • 2 Game Hens
  • 6 tablespoons prepared sate condiment (see Andrea’s recipe)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, ends and nubs removed (and set aside) and finely minced
  • 4 ounces lager beer
  • Dozen kaffir lime leaves
  • Discarded tops and nubs of various lemongrass stalks (from those used to make the sate and from the fresh lemongrass I just told you about)

In a small bowl, combine sate, minced lemongrass, and beer. Mix into a paste. Rub all over each game hen and in the inner cavities. Stuff the inner cavity with lime leaves and lemongrass discards. Allow to marinate 4-12 hours in the fridge.

Prepare a charcoal grill, piling the coals disproportionately with one hot side and one cool(er) side. Once the coals are hot, grill over hot heat, turning often to get grill-y marks on all quadrants of the bird. Move to the cool side of the grill and cover (opening up the slot vents). Roast for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Set aside and let rest.

I could eat this forever and a day with plain, steamed jasmine rice.

Cap-n-trade meat?

Meat is murder on the environment. (New Scientist)

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption. The team looked at calf production, focusing on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.

Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy (Animal Science Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x). In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is higher than the study suggests.

Set it and forget it

Cocoon Cooker Grows Meat and Fish from Heated Animal Cells. (Fast Company)

Here’s a food-related invention that is even weirder than the notorious Beanzawave: The Cocoon, a concept cooker that grows meat and fish from heated animal cells in a process that looks disturbingly similar to magic animal growing capsules.

Designed by Richard Hederstierna of the Lund Institute of Technology, Cocoon took first place today in the Electrolux Design Lab Competition. Hederstierna’s device uses RFID signals to discern the type of fish or meat inserted into the cooker. The meat’s muscle cells, nutrients, and oxygen are heated for a preset time, and voila, delicious meat is born, sans the whole killing animals part.

I’ve been waiting for this since I first read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

Hoki poke

From Deep Pacific, Ugly and Tasty, With a Catch. (NY Times)

“Most Americans have no clue that hoki is often what they’re eating in fried-fish sandwiches,” SeaFood Business, an industry magazine, reported in April 2001. It said chain restaurants using hoki included McDonald’s, Denny’s and Long John Silver’s.

Ominous signs of overfishing — mainly drops in hoki spawns — came soon thereafter. Criticism from ecological groups soared. The stewardship council promotes hoki as sustainable “in spite of falling fish stocks and the annual killing of hundreds of protected seals, albatross and petrels,” the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand said in May 2004.

Soylent Green is Slim Jim

What’s Inside a Slim Jim?. (Wired)

It’s real meat, all right. But it ain’t Kobe. The US Department of Agriculture categorizes beef into eight grades of quality. The bottom three—utility, cutter, and canner—are typically used in processed foods and come from older steers with partially ossified vertebrae, tougher tissue, and generally less reason to live. ConAgra wasn’t exactly forthcoming on what’s inside Slim Jim.

Mechanically separated chicken
Did you imagine a conveyor belt carrying live chickens into a giant machine, set to the classic cartoon theme “Powerhouse”? You’re right! Well, maybe not about the music. Poultry scraps are pressed mechanically through a sieve that extrudes the meat as a bright pink paste and leaves the bones behind (most of the time).

Corn and wheat proteins
Slim Jim is made by ConAgra, and if there are two things ConAgra has a lot of, it’s corn and wheat.

The Smiths should sue

Murder Burger’s staff wear Meat is Murder T-shirts. (The Daily Telegraph via SS’s Twitter)

THERE’S something very confronting about buying a beef burger from a man wearing a “Meat is Murder” T-shirt.

Especially, when it’s his staff uniform.

But that’s how things go at Murder Burger, a New Zealand gourmet burger store that appears to specialise in downplaying itself in that classic Antipodean way, with great results.

I’d rather have the staff wear a shirt that says “Strangeways Here We Come”.

Factory farmed chicken is not a new car, but at least it’s something

Oprah Gives Out Free KFC in Most Hypocritical Move Yet. (Civil Eats)

It may seem harmless: a mass market “they want it, so I’m giving it to them” kind of campaign. But because Oprah has marketed herself as one who cares about animals, even getting a “Person of the Year” award last year from PETA, this KFC campaign is a serious disappointment to say the least.

This is because KFC buys their meat from Tyson, which is the largest chicken processor in the United States and is known for supporting a conglomeration of chicken CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). Inside these daylight-free hellholes, chickens are crammed so tightly together they can barely move. Worse, if we were to grow as fast as these broilers are bred to grow, we’d be 350 pounds by the time we were 2 years old.

Sushi stops dickheads from acting

Jeremy Piven Quits Broadway, “Extreme Mercury Toxicity. (Huff Post)

The doctor says that Jeremy is suffering from extreme mercury toxicity. Colker tells ET that a major symptom of mercury poisoning is extreme fatigue. In addition, Jeremy began experiencing neuro-muscular dysfunction late last week, which led to extreme difficulty in lifting his arms and legs. Then, this past Sunday, he began feeling dizzy. Now, the doctors have ordered enforced rest. Jeremy spent three days in the hospital recently and the doctor tells us exclusively that he is no longer in New York.

Colker tells ET that Jeremy has been an avid sushi eater for many years, regularly eating sushi twice in one day. He notes that Jeremy has also taken certain Chinese herbs, and that, in combination with the frequent sushi consumption, could have led to these elevated mercury levels.

Total recall

USDA Makes Nation’s Largest Beef Recall. (AP)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday recalled 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a California slaughterhouse, the subject of an animal-abuse investigation, that provided meat to school lunch programs.

Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats. No illnesses have been linked to the newly recalled meat, and officials said the health threat was likely small.

The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency said.

Hallmark Meat Co.?

America the Beautiful

USDA to review Calif. slaughterhouse. (Associated Press)

Newly installed Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said the department was taking the allegations seriously after video footage showed workers at the Hallmark Meat Packing Co. repeatedly kicking cows and ramming them with the blades of a forklift as the animals squealed in pain.

Schafer said “appropriate actions will be taken” if violations are found in the facility but he said there was no evidence that the nation’s beef supply was at risk.

“There is no immediate health risk that we are aware of,” he said.

Hallmark, based in Chino, Calif., supplies the Westland Meat Co., which processes the carcasses. The facility is a major supplier to a USDA program that distributes beef to needy families, the elderly and to schools through the National School Lunch Program. Westland was named a USDA “supplier of the year” for 2004-2005 and has delivered beef to schools in 36 states.

The video, released Wednesday by The Humane Society of the United States after a six-week undercover investigation, also showed plant workers jabbing in the eyes and applying electrical shocks to the “downed” dairy cows — those who are too sick or injured to walk — in an effort to force them into the federally inspected slaughterhouse.

In one scene, the workers shoot high-intensity water sprays up the cows’ noses in what The Humane Society described as a form of animal “waterboarding,” or torture that simulates drowning.

Peak Meat

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler (Mark Bittman in the NY Times)

A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil.

It’s meat.

The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally — like oil — meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

Foie and Alzheimer’s?

Foie gras could be tasty way to get Alzheimer’s. (Times Online)

FOIE GRAS, enjoyed as a luxury since ancient Egyptian times, may be linked to the onset of diseases including Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, researchers have suggested.

The scientists who carried out the study say those with a family history of such illnesses should consider avoiding foie gras.

The possible risk comes from “amyloid” proteins found in the delicacy, which is made from the swollen livers of force-fed geese and ducks. The proteins have been linked to the onset of all these conditions.

In their study, the researchers found mice fed on foie gras started growing amyloid proteins in various organs. They observed a similar result when extract of foie gras was injected into the rodents’ bloodstream.

This latest bit of alarmism doesn’t affect me either way, but I am still creeped out by this.

Mad cows are the most delicious kind

U.S. government fights to keep meatpackers from testing all slaughtered cattle for mad cow. (IHT)

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

Pig to the slaughter

Last thoughts on a dead pig. (Ed’s Diner)

Driving from the slaughterhouse in Kapowsin to Cheryl Ouellette’s farm in Summit one morning this month, it barely registered: dinner – 90 pounds of whole pig, freshly killed and USDA approved — was riding in the jump seat behind me.

On the way to the slaughterhouse two hours earlier, the pig, then 160 pounds and breathing, rode in a wooden crate in the back of Ouellette’s red Dodge pick-up truck. Now, with hair, blood and entrails removed, the pig, now pork, was wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a cardboard box about the size of a bag of golf clubs.

I went to a whorehouse and fucked three hookers to protest prostitution

This symbolic act of protest is what my friend Sparkrobot compared to this:

Artist eats Corgi to protest British royals’ fox hunt; Yoko Ono also tastes it. (MSNBC)

A British artist has eaten chunks of a Corgi dog, the breed favored by Queen Elizabeth II, live on radio to protest against the royal family’s treatment of animals.

Mark McGowan, 37, said he ate “about three bites” of the dog meat, cooked with apples, onions and seasoning, to highlight what he called Prince Philip’s mistreatment of a fox during a hunt by the Queen’s husband in January.

“It was pretty disgusting,” McGowan said of the meal, which he ate while appearing on a London radio station on Tuesday. Yoko Ono, another guest on the show, also tried the meat.

First she breaks up the Beatles, now she breaks up the Corgis.

“I’ve never tasted anything like it — it was grey and had a very funny smell. It was horrible,” McGowan told Reuters.

And the dog didn’t taste all that good either. Ba-dump-ching!

Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Be sure to tip your waitress.

I saw a guy with a shirt…

@Uwajimaya today, while I was slurping down cold noodles tossed in miso dressing and hot mustard ($5.25, with slivers of char sui and tamago). The shirt read:


I thought he was just a Smiths fan, but below that…

“Tasty, tasty murder”

As it were, I was in the mood for a hunk of tasty murdered meat, so I picked up a small block of tuna.


Uwajimaya has sashimi grade maguro @$18.99/lb. When I got home, I sliced, plated, topped with minced green onion, and squeezed a few darts of sesame oil on that sweet flesh.


To finish, I sprinkled it with Japanese red pepper powder, Alaea Volcanic sea salt from The Meadow, and a few black sesame seeds.

The real veal

Veal to Love, Without the Guilt. (NYTimes)

When photographs of formula-fed veal calves tethered in crates where they could not turn around appeared across the country, sales of veal plummeted. They have never recovered. In the 1950s and 1960s Americans ate four pounds of veal a year on average. Today per capital consumption is around half a pound a year.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that some farmers finally got the message and changed the way their calves were raised.

People like Elaine Burden of Middleburg, Va., who stopped eating veal about 10 years ago, have come back. Ayrshire Farm, an 800-acre organic farm in nearby Upperville, is selling certified-humane veal at its Home Farm Store in Middleburg, and she is buying it. “I’m delighted we can have it again,” she said. “Psychologically you feel better because it can graze on the fresh field of grass. It’s a more natural and wholesome way to eat. But in fact, the taste is better.”

You remain karmically pure because the baby cow is allowed to get its grass on before you slit its throat. And if that ups the deliciousness factor, then long live humanity. Win win.

NYT Times editorial on Wolfgang Puck’s Inconvenient Truth

Mr. Puck’s Good Idea.

Until recently, most Americans have been appallingly ignorant of how their food is produced. That is changing. And Mr. Puck’s gift for showmanship will help advance Americans’ knowledge that they can eat well and do right all at the same time.

Good. Good for Puck. But I doubt it will have any significant effect on a society that bleats endlessly about American Idol controversies in lieu of paying actual attention to anything that imprints specificity upon their daily lives.

Cefquinom and cows

FDA Rules Override Warnings About Drug. Cattle Antibiotic Moves Forward Despite Fears of Human Risk.

The government is on track to approve a new antibiotic to treat a pneumonia-like disease in cattle, despite warnings from health groups and a majority of the agency’s own expert advisers that the decision will be dangerous for people.

The drug, called cefquinome, belongs to a class of highly potent antibiotics that are among medicine’s last defenses against several serious human infections. No drug from that class has been approved in the United States for use in animals.

The American Medical Association and about a dozen other health groups warned the Food and Drug Administration that giving cefquinome to animals would probably speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotics, as has happened with other drugs. Those super-microbes could then spread to people.

The delicious Mr. Ed

Chow explores the epistemological underpinnings of America’s aversion to horse meat.

Passon emphasizes a key point: Since Americans have never had to eat horse, unlike the historically impoverished peasantry of Europe, the meat’s never become normalized. “If we train Americans, they would eat it,” he says. Asked if he would serve horsemeat to New Yorkers if they’d order it, Passon is enthusiastic: “Oh, definitely.” Horse is typically compared to beef—although it is lighter and less fatty—and Passon, who loves its taste, likens its texture to that of skirt steak. “It’s very sweet and it’s very bloody,” he adds. Traveling in Italy recently, he purchased a horse salami, or salami di cavallo. (Horsemeat was traditionally used for sausage in Italy’s north.) “I compared it to the pork one, and it was ten times better,” he says. “I gave it to my partner, and he’s like, this is the best sausage I’ve ever had.

So true. After the Kentucky Derby winner broke its leg last spring, it was the top story in the American media for weeks (incidentally, soldiers killed in the battlefield were lucky to be mentioned — so much for supporting the troops). While I’m not too keen on chowing down on Seabiscuit anytime soon, I can’t really fault the rest of the world (including our Canuck neighbors) for finding deliciousness in the saddle. Chez Pim recently posted about her experience with horse fat fries, and the subsequent revulsion.

As gourmands (and dilettantes) are forever pushing the envelope in terms of the market for high-end ingredients, imagine what thoroughbred horse meat would fetch? Fuck Kobe beef, get me a Secretariat filet, stat!

Soylent green is people

There was a post today at Food Dude’s place about local exotic meat and game purveyor Nicky USA, and their recent score of some choice goose livers. In that post, Nancy Rommelman briefs us on The War Against Carnivores™, including a recap of the last few salvos. She frames Portland’s latest engorged goose liver capture within that context.

In comments, I linked to a post by Michael Ruhlman wherein a colleague of his describes visiting a duck foie farm in France and witnessing the ducks living humane lives, gracefully force fed a diet that includes what one gathers to be the RENDERED FAT OF ITS OWN KIND.

When I first learned of this a few months ago, I was pretty creeped out. The last time I’ve had foie was last year as part of a 7 course chef’s tasting menu at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach (thx bro!), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It can be quite a tasty piece of flesh, though I would opt for a seared, savory preperation rather than some cold, compressed terrine. That night we ate pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras served atop a seared rare duck breast with some sort of black truffle something or another — it was pretty damned amazing. The foie literally melted away with each bite.

However, I’m not too eager to dive back in. Look, I’ll be honest, the inhumanity angle vis-à-vis force-fed fowl never really gave me much pause. First of all, I eat the stuff infrequent enough (if I have the coin to splurge, you’re more likely to see me opt for marbled steak). And in the back of my mind, just postulating the kind of horrors that are practiced at, say, commercial chicken concerns, why would I of all people draw some imaginary line? Last month, I uncomfortably shadowed an 18-wheeler on the interstate stacked with 2×2 crates, each occupied by a live, hapless chicken. I couldn’t help but to steal glances at the wall-of-poultry monstrosity and shudder at the sheer miscalculated application of cold, free market principles.

If you check out the website for Sonoma Foie Gras, the farm mentioned in the post, you’ll learn:

Guillermo and Junny Gonzalez left their homeland of El Salvador in 1985 to pursue a new venture: The establishment of a foie gras farm in the United States. They traveled first to France where they apprenticed in foie gras production with the respected Dubois family in the Perigord Region.

It could be that the farm that supplies Portland with their foie feeds their ducks their brothers, sisters, and cousins. Or not.

I posted some feigned outrage, but it fell on deaf ears (as a friend of mine says, “I draw the line at deliciousness”). But the more I think about it, the more potentially creeped out I become. Fuck ethics and debating any particular merits of “humanely” prepping an animal for its eventual slaughter. That has little to do with this. There has to be some sort karmic retribution to force feeding an animal, any animal, TO EAT ITSELF. You’re crossing some sort of line of self-restraint — violating some ancient Hammurabic-like code — with this weird, disturbingly fucked practice, like when the dude from INXS hung himself trying to wack off. Mad cow disease seems to me prima facie evidence.

Sure, call me a pansyweight plebe who doesn’t appreciate the delicate art of fine delectables. I mean, look at the title of this blog. But I would feel a bit weird about serving my dog a diet of rendered beagle jowls, or my cat its own testicles.

The end of cod

A COMPLETE ban on cod fishing is the only way to prevent the species from dying out in the North Sea, scientists said last night.

Whither fish and chips. Another byproduct of industrialized fishing, and it’s not like they haven’t tried to police the catch.

The main problem is that although cod catches have been cut to 26,500 tonnes a year, more than twice that amount is being caught in bycatches by fishermen chasing other species such as haddock, whiting, hake and plaice. Fishermen accidentally caught about 50,000 tonnes of cod last year, and have to throw the dead fish back in the sea because it is classed as an illegal catch.

The bycatches are difficult to avoid because cod are bigger than the other fish and no method has been devised to catch the other fish without scooping up cod in the process.

Throwing the dead fish back in the water? Waste upon waste.

Chilean sea bass, cod…the list continues to grow. When will the laboratories be ready with that vat spawned meat?

Grass fed? Eh, not so much.

Ranchers Decry Grass-Fed Beef Rule Plan.

From the gang that brought you “No Child Left Behind” and the “Clean Skies Initiative”…

Meat-eaters usually assume a grass-fed steak came from cattle contentedly grazing for most of their lives on lush pastures, not crowded into feedlots. If the government has its way, the grass-fed label could be used to sell beef that didn’t roam the range and ate more than just grass.

The Agriculture Department has proposed a standard for grass-fed meat that doesn’t say animals need pasture and that broadly defines grass to include things like leftovers from harvested crops.

Critics say the proposal is so loose that it would let more conventional ranchers slap a grass-fed label on their beef, too.

That’s exactly what’s intended — allowing erstwhile cow factories to slap that grass-fed label on a hunk of flesh and participate in Wal-mart’s “organic” gourmet revolution.

That proof is in the pudding, according to one Thom Fox.

Grass-fed beef is a leaner meat; fat tends to form around the muscle. With conventional corn-fed beef, the fat streaks the muscle in marble-like patterns.

“When you eat steak that is corn-finished, there’s a mouthfeel that you get specifically from the fat; it hangs there in the palate for quite awhile,” said Thom Fox, the chef at Acme Chophouse in San Francisco and a member of the Chefs Collaborative.

“Grass-fed beef tends to have a much quicker finish. The taste lasts for a few minutes and cleans itself off very fast,” Fox said.

If I can go forever without being subjected to the brutal strength of Thom Fox’s creepy distinction-making powers again, even that wouldn’t be long enough.

Damn, it’s hard to be a Carni-gangsta

Michael Ruhlman, guest blogger at Megnut, spews a delicious rant regarding the recent, frenzied mobilization of the anti-food faction that has wrought foie prohibition in Chicago and lobster deification at Whole Foods. His post, a worthy salvo in the crescendoing War Against the Carnivores™, brings out an equally justified tirade from Tony Bourdain in the comments. A choice nugget:

The fucktards at Whole Food, however, have done us a real service by providing the most ludicrous example of “animal welfare” concerns with their public hand wringing over the fate of shellfish. Comedy Gold. Extraordinary that in a time when we’re force feeding PEOPLE at Gitmo–and when hundreds of thousands of PEOPLE are starving to death in the Sudan and elsewhere, that there is no more burning issue on the minds of educated, well-fed, financially comfortable citizens than whether or not a clam feels pain–or whether a duck can handle what any respectable adult film ingenue considers routine.

Comedy gold, indeed.

On another front, Los Angeles chef Robert Gadsby leads a charge with his Outlaw Dinner that, in addition to featuring absinthe and hemp, is built around the showcasing of foie gras, including Foie Gras Bonbons with Pop Rocks that sounds straight from the kitchen of Chicago’s Avenues.

I had a pet chicken once…

I remember for a four or five week span, during my second grade year, we had a chicken in our back yard in Orange County, CA. I was very perplexed as to why a chicken all of sudden would appear in our back yard, as we never had any pets before.

This was largely because my father, who was a true-blooded American who would drive only Cadillacs because every other car was the spawn of Communists, had finally sobered off enough to take another overseas offshore gig in the Middle East, working for the type of companies that provide what can largely be considered large-scale logistical services for foreign governments, including (and most lucratively) our own. There are a lot of these companies, but you may be only familiar with the more sinister and pervasive examples such as Halliburton, DynCorp and KBR. Talk about a coarse ground of socialism seeped through a brittle coffee filter of corporatism.

In any regard, at the time this lack of the patriarchal American Daddy figurehead in our household meant my Mom turned our house into an entrepot, a confluence of members from the Vietnamese refugee community that were already well into the process of turning Westminster, CA into a sanitized, strip mall version of Saigon full of nail shops, video stores, real estate offices and jewelers. American dream and all that.

Anyhow, I sort of grew attached to this chicken over the course of the next few days. It tried to attack me every time I went outside, and I found that endearing. It got outside and onto the sidewalk in front of our house on time, forcing one of my mom’s friends to chase it down, and we were scolded for being so careless.

I can’t remember if I or my brothers attempted to give the animal a name or not. If we did, I’m sure we would have named it Ron Cey, at the time a popular third-basemen for the local Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise who was given the nickname “The Penguin,” which, incidentally, is also a type of bird.

One day a bunch of my mom’s Vietnamese friends showed up with a bunch of foodstuffs, as if they were planning some sort of function. One enterprising man—he was probably a badass from the Old Country, maybe he was VC but more likely he actually fought for the South or even most likely he was just some guy who grew up in the countryside and this was socially obligatory for him — he went out into our makeshift chicken coop and chased down the fowl, and proceeded to cut its head right off. As a mortified 7-year old, entirely lacking the sort of euphemistic coping methods that allow me to exist as a semi-functioning adult, this really blew the lid off my worldview.

After witnessing the bird being bled and drained over a bucket for some time, I eventually lost interest and went inside to watch Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The bird was undoubtedly disemboweled and defeathered, as the next time I saw it, the chicken was being cooked in a big pot on the stove, where it would simmer for hours and hours.

I remember that it was delicious.