HOSSACK: A nameless chicken is a wonderful meal
Until I visited my first petting zoo and met my first brood of poofy designer chickens, strutting about the henyard with cottony white bloomers or herring bone business suits, it never occurred to me that poultry could be pets.
The chickens were a mixed flock of cute-as-bunnies silky bantams and (I think) smartly plumed cuckoo d’lzeghem.
There were also a few fancily bustled yokohamas and ballroomesque silky zijdehoens, just to keep things extravagant.
These chickens were easily better dressed than I’ll ever be.
However, I’m still not convinced they should come indoors.
Ever since discovering there’s more to chickens than sizing them up for a roasting pan, though, I’ve entertained daydreams about a backyard coop of finel -feathered hens, greeting me as I visit to scatter handfuls of seeds and lay out daily offerings of table leavings.
I’ve also imagined never again cracking into a less-than-fresh egg.
Some chickens, I’m told, even lay shells in shades of green and blue. Designer eggs; no food colouring required.
If there’s one thing I know, however, feathers don’t make the chicken any more than clothes make the woman.
The things that really matter are underneath all that finery.
Glamour aside, when you get down to the skin, the question is: Which chicken tastes best with barbecue sauce?
Or brined in cider and kosher salt, marinated and cooked in a smoke of fresh thyme?
Plump and juicy — those are the qualities of a real chicken.
Supermodels need not apply.
To be honest, I already suspect it’s the plainer birds, the barnyard browns that make their livings scratching and pecking and avoiding marauding coyotes, that really pack on the flavour.
But, I don’t know.
No one’s ever given me a zoo chicken, all plucked, gutted and tied up with butcher string.
And, it might just be that all those tiense vechtkriels and aseel kriels are too pretty to eat.
More ornamental than edible and better suited for the runway than the grill.
A nice Plymouth Rock hen, however, is just the kind of chicken you can take to dinner.
She’s unfussy, low-maintenance, dressed for Canadian weather and cooks up nice and golden.
While they come in white and partridge brown, some of them also sport striking black-and-white barred plumage that would look smart in a backyard, strutting in and out of a charming little cottage-style coop.
I just don’t think my strata board would approve, either of the coop or the poop.
Realistically, too, I’d make pets out of my chickens so fast you wouldn’t even be able to say, “Hypocrite!”
So, while I may have grown up snacking on chicken hearts — and feet — I might as well admit I’d sooner need a vet than a butcher block.
Any chickens destined for my grill simply have to be ones I don’t know by name.