This post might be more appropriate for my Assembling a Cooking Life website, sister to this Eating Art Work site. However, since this is where I have currently pledged to post regularly, here it is, a small piece of my Food Life Story:
First of all, it’s a thrifty thing to do and in a strange way, I enjoy pulling the meat off of the bones of a roasted chicken and plunking those bones into a pot of water, like the old timers. Sometimes I stockpile the little carcasses in the freezer until I have enough to make a good size pot ‘o stock. I do call them ‘chicken bodies’, which some people find unappealing, but it’s my attempt to use humor as a defense.
You see, I was a vegetarian for a long time, (back when it was considered an odd ball thing to do, but I’m not telling that story here.) I want to tell the story of learning to cut a whole chicken into its parts. This happened when I was a very serious veg, but I also had very serious financial issues (read: living with a bf who was a ‘musician’ and therefore found himself unable to work any job that would earn money for us to live on…)
So, I took any work I could find and one job was working as a cook in a small nursing home. It was tiny, only eight men in a private home that had been modified to meet the (minimal, 1970’s) state standards. Hall Rest Home existed because X had married a man 30 years her senior and when he could no longer work and required a quasi-medical setting, this was her answer: take in seven other old men and earn her living that way. Oh my, so many stories about that place, from the first interview, when I should have seen the writing on the wall and run away as fast as I could, to the seven grain horse feed…
But I digress. Of course she purchased whole chickens (cheaper), but the Mrs. did not know what to do with them. So my lesson in cutting up a chicken was taught by the ailing octogenarian, Dr. Hall. (He had been a dentist.) The raw bird was placed on the hospital table beside his bed and it was there that he instructed me how to pull out the leg and slice between the thigh and the breast. Followed by bending each leg back until the thighbone popped out of its socket. Oh yes, the sounds and sensations of chopping through the bones of a slimy chicken body were quite an education for my sensitive veggie self. But I did it, guided by that old man in his pajamas, unable to sit up on his own, his quiet trembling voice describing each step. Nowadays I do eat fowl and I relive that surreal experience every time I carve up a bird, raw or cooked.
The second reason I make chicken stock is because it smells so darn good and is the best way to use up the sad little celery, carrot and parsnip units in my refrigerator. An onion, some salt, bay leaf and thyme, maybe a couple of tired garlic cloves and irresistible, mouth-watering scents fill the house.
And the third reason is because it thrills me to have those plump little ziptop bags stashed in the freezer, neatly marked with Chicken (or Turkey) Broth and the date. The stock from the Thanksgiving turkey has become a traditional part of the New Years Day pot of rice, greens and black-eyed peas. But tonight, with the temp outside in the single digits and my forty-fifth head cold of the winter kicking my butt, I will thaw a baggie of that golden liquid, mix up some matzo balls and put supper on the table.
So, from the pleasure of being a thrifty gal to reveling in olfactory bliss to selfcare when my engine is out of juice, those are the three reasons I make chicken stock.