PC 73 What is it about chickens?

Thoughts came tumbling into the empty space between my ears as we walked from the car park up to the Yoga studio with Debbie, a friend who ‘has chickens’. She was explaining that chickens liked to be kept clean and if they were cleaned out every day they appeared much happier. Not sure whether I have the expertise to determine if a chicken is happy; surely a chicken looks like a chicken whether it’s happy or not – or maybe it’s not the perceived happiness of the chicken that’s the issue here …. but how the owner thinks about them? I suggested a shower would keep them clean but not sure that chickens like showers. My thoughts immediately went to a damp dark cottage crowded in by large trees in an area of Scotland that doesn’t really look like Scotland. Er? Sorry?  Well, when someone says ‘Scotland’, I think of long sea lochs, of heather-covered mountains and craggy cliffs ….. and midges …… and rain and sun …. and just a wonderfully empty place with views in every direction. The Isle of Whithorn lies in the south west of the country and is characterised by rather poor farming ….. and has no mountains! The only view from this little run-down cottage was of trees.

A Chicken!!

My stepmother liked to keep chickens, all part of the grow-your-own culture that you embrace when you move off piste. My father had developed a love for growing vegetables and soft fruit ……. and would tell of the various crops and stuff he produced, over and over again. When my daughter was quite small we  went and spent a few days up north ….. a rare occasion but I felt the need to show my father how his first grandchild was growing up. She was particularly partial to a romper suit in pink and she was at that crawling stage that we all go through. The kitchen floor was next to a sort of pantry where the swill bucket was for the chickens…..

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” “To get to the other side, for some foul reason!”

I watched my stepmother go and feed the chickens from a galvanised iron bucket that contained the scraps from her cooking; it smelt of rotting food! She would scoop out a handful and throw it into one part of the hen coop, another into a different part until she was satisfied that they had enough. She probably checked for eggs and brought them into the kitchen ……… and then started preparing our supper. I know that a little dirt is good for keeping our immune system up to the mark but I watched with horror – she made no attempt to wash her hands, just carried on getting supper ready. Offering to help was always a no-no as she didn’t rate anyone else’s ability to cook in her kitchen. Memories fade but some remain as stark as the day they became etched on the memory card – the pink romper suit was never ever the same colour after a wipe on the kitchen floor and those fingers and nails – yuk! Chickens!

Perversely I have always loved chicken and its variants – do you remember how chicken was boiled until it fell apart, the broth becoming soup? Roast Chicken was a treat at a weekend ….. then cold chicken on Monday  ….. then chicken fricassee on Tuesday ……then soup I guess!

“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” It seems that the formation of egg shell relies on a protein found only in chicken ovaries. Therefore an egg can only exist if it’s been inside a chicken!!

Eating eggs is an acquired taste – as the yolk has a certain smell that some find unattractive but at 80 calories an egg and with 13g of protein, they are good for you. You can now buy only egg whites in our local supermarket, perfect for those who want an omelette without the yolks. We had a scare in the UK in 1988 when Edwina Currie, the Minister for Health, said: “Most of the egg production in this country sadly is now infested with salmonella.” – Sales of eggs went down 60% overnight and no one ate eggs for a while!!

As a single officer in the Army, I was accommodated in the Officers’ Mess, the centre of our social life (Mess? Well some chap’s rooms certainly were but the word originates from old French where mese meant a portion of food). We had three meals a day ….. and tea and toast at teatime …. all very civilised. There was always a choice of food but one lunchtime in the ‘70s I didn’t really fancy anything on offer. I asked the waiter who was cooking that day; “Corporal Matthews Sir” Well, I liked Corporal Matthews and asked that Corporal Mathews cook me an omelette. Well the said Matthews obviously took umbrage at my turning down the other dishes he had prepared …… and cooked me an omelette containing a dozen, yes 12, eggs. It arrived on a huge platter brought in by a waiter with a great smirk on his face. The challenge was obvious!

Not sure when it started but many years ago I started having three soft boiled eggs at breakfast – every day! I hasten to add that both my good and bad cholesterol are within the limits but admit that one egg provides enough cholesterol for 62% of my daily needs!! Bit of overkill maybe, but I certainly ‘go to work on an egg’!

So there you have it, some idle scribbles about chickens and eggs, neither of which you should count ……. or you’d probably get something on your face!! And of course I hope you find these scribbles better than the ‘Curate’s Egg’ and fortunately my grandmother’s not with us anymore so I can’t teach her to …..etcetera etcetera!

 Richard 3rd July 2016 – richardyates24@gmail.com

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