I’ll tell my kids about it

Full disclosure, I flaked out like a blizzard when it came time to, how do I say this diplomatically, make efficient use of our aggressive rooster Ruby. We had raised Ruby since he was a chick. Fed him. Housed him. Named him. So it was tough for me to then do the dirty and dispatch of him. That, I gladly left for Heath to endure. (Though I had no problem doing the subsequent cooking and eating and blogging.) Given my lack of participation in that surreal and slightly icky life moment, it seemed unlikely I would sign up for any future endeavors of the same ilk. How wrong you are my friend. For I was front and center when pals Mark and Ranjana made, er, “efficient use” of their three hens and two ducks last weekend.

Like Heath and I, and thousands of other wannabe urban farmers in Austin and elsewhere, Mark and Ranjana spent a good long while providing a comfortable space in the backyard in which Rothko, Benedict, Omlette, Frank and Scott could scratch up and stink up. It’s perhaps what they do best after egg laying and mealworm eating. But, alas, the couple has decided to relocate, and as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you. And “it” includes chickens and ducks. So, a chicken dinner it would be for Mark, Ranjana and their invited guests.

I’m not blind to the fact that to many, it may seem gross and odd and perhaps even cruel to do in your pets. Nor am I obtuse to the cold hard truth that there is an entire industry out there that does this sort of thing day in and day out, and it’s in many ways not such a big f-ing deal. (In fact, the average American eats about 185 pounds of chicken a year, according to this NPR story, so chew on that if you’re a chicken eater of the “that’s cruel” ideology.)  Whatever camp you’re in—Gross, Cruel, Who Cares—it doesn’t change the simple notion that it is important to know where your food comes from, REALLY comes from. So this time, I put on my big girl pants and played an active role in helping Maranjanark prepare their meal.

Why? Well, to help out some friends, for one. But also, I wanted to be there for selfish reasons. I wanted to document the process for the sake of art, or nostalgia or something. And I wanted to be able to tell my future kids about it. “No kids, I haven’t gone skydiving, or set foot on Antarctica, but I did see with my own two eyes, a chicken run around with its head cut off, and it was weird, and startling and magnificent.” I wanted to be there for my street cred.

What didn’t factor into my decision making process at the time I volunteered for this assignment, was the odd sense of fulfillment I would derive from it all. Not from the actual morbid blood-and-guts part, but being a part of the life cycle. For years Mark and Ranjana gave to the birds, and now the birds were giving back. It was all done humanely and gracefully. Mark and Ranjana said a few words to remember and be thankful for the experiences the birds afforded them, and then shared their nourishment with friends who had supported them along the way.

I was confused and conflicted and frankly a little immature when we made a meal of our rooster. But being a part of the experience, the whole experience, with our Austin family was different. It felt right. It felt important. It felt beautiful.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” –Cesar Chavez

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13 Comments on “I’ll tell my kids about it”

  1. creative pixie says:

    Great photos. We have thought about keeping chickens ourselves (for the eggs) but I couldn’t keep them for the meat as I’d probably be too attached to them to have them for food.

  2. kmom says:

    One of the reasons I strive to be a vegetarian is because I don’t have the fortitude to kill my food, at least not the furred and feathered variety. I also hate factory farms, so I admire your ability to confront the reality of “meat”. After reading Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable Miracle and another audio book about an urban farmer in Oakland,CA I can understand the whole grow your own mentality pretty well. I just can’t wield the knife.

  3. Your pictures are stunning. The one of the dog is my favorite!

  4. amymacmahon says:

    beautiful piece – thank you.

  5. craftymadre says:

    This is really beautifully written and photographed. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years now but my wife and son are not. This is such a thoughtful and honest way to think about growing animals for consumption. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Nicole says:

    Such an interesting post, vibrant & vivacious photos! 🙂

  7. […] that, just weeks ago we were much more a threat to chickens than this 8-pound marsupial, we vowed to spend our weekend reinforcing the coop to make it into a […]

  8. butlerbd says:

    My Mama used to tell me this same story as a kid. Mean rooster, the whole family hated him. Finally, her father had enough. He “whacked him”, straight up mob style. Grandma plucked him and put him in the pot. Then nobody had the heart to eat him. They told their children. Perhaps that is why it has lived with my mother her whole life and she felt the need to tell me this fairy tale of a story.


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