Ready or Not #101: Killing a Chicken or Cleaning a Fish

Vegetarians – don’t read this article.  If you are a bit squeamish around raw meat – toughen up.  A couple of articles ago I shared with you what my friends’ grandpa, Grandpa Motes, thought that every young woman should know how to do: drive a car, shoot a gun and milk a cow.  I agreed with him, but I want to take that self-sufficient thought little bit further.

Most of our food is presented to us in a way that it is fairly clean and either half prepared, or fully prepared and we just have to warm it up.  One example is chicken meat.   Most of our chickens are pre-cut for us and we can even buy our favorite pieces frozen individually in large bags.  We can get pre-cooked and pre-breaded chicken nuggets, strips or whole pieces that we just throw in the microwave or oven.  Nothing messy about that, but that isn’t how it started out.

I know that when I talk about this, there are going to be a few individuals out there that understand what I am talking about and have probably experienced what I have.  Most of you however will shiver and say, “Yuck”, but this is where I am telling you to buck up.  I think that you should, at some time in your life, have the opportunity to catch a chicken, kill it, pluck it, cut it up, cook it and present it to your family for dinner.  I’m not suggesting animal abuse and I don’t feel that it is animal abuse to know how to feed your family with the animals that are provided for us to eat.

I also hope that I haven’t offended anyone by suggesting you do this, but I think that it serves a purpose.  What makes me sad is when I see people wasting food or not appreciating the food that they have chosen to eat.  When I see children wasting chicken nuggets or chicken strips and just throwing it away because they have been taught to be finicky, I get frustrated.  An animal gave up their life to feed them and they just throw it away without a second thought.

Oftentimes food comes packaged so neatly that we sometimes forget to appreciate where it comes from and what it once was.  When I was young and living at home, my family would raise about 50 to 100 small white turkeys to freeze for our food storage every year.  To get them to the table we had to raise them and then process and clean them.  This included: catching them, cutting their heads off, draining the blood, dipping them in hot water to help release the feathers easier (which by the way is really stinky), plucking the feathers and cleaning their insides out.  We would then take the cleaned chickens inside the house, wrap them and put them in the freezer.

All of the family would help.  My brother would catch the turkeys, my dad would cut the heads off, my grandpa would keep the fire stoked under the large tub of water, and my mom, grandma and little sister would dunk the chickens in the hot water and then they would pluck the feathers.  I cleaned the insides out.  This ritual, which we did most every year, taught me a lot of things like teamwork, working until the job gets done and something unexpected – an appreciation for the life of the animal that I was going to eat.

As a family we also raised, slaughtered, cut up and packaged our own beef.  We did this for a lot of years because we couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do it.  We processed our own deer and wild game because I had a wonderful grandpa who could teach us how.  And with all that we did, my parents made sure that we understood and appreciated the animals that gave up their life to nourish us and we were taught to never be wasteful.  I also want to let you know that I can clean a fish faster than anyone in my whole family (don’t tell my brother I said that because he is under the delusion that he is the fastest.)

Take the time to think about where your food comes from and then know how to take care of it and how to prepare it from the very beginning, if you ever need to.  You will appreciate the lesson of life and sacrifice and you will think twice about being so blasé when it comes to consuming your protein calories.

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