Lately, I’ve had the thought that I could have been a butcher. I wonder why you don’t see many women butchers. Is it a union thing? I’ll have to ask one of the guys at the grocery store in town. I need to learn their names. Any French housewife or gourmet cook gets to know her local butcher and I don’t mean in the biblical sense.
I like deboning. I deboned some chicken legs and thighs not too long ago. I like the precision, the clean feel of chicken flesh, and the technique for turning an inexpensive cut of meat into tidy bundles for stuffing. Farce, I think it’s called. I felt like Julia Child. She could talk and cut up a chicken at the same time, on television, as a matter of fact.
There is a cute food blog where the young woman in a small kitchen in Manhattan films herself cooking while drunk. That would not be a good idea if you decide to spatchcock the Thanksgiving bird.
I really enjoy spatchcocking. This technique for splaying a fowl came to my attention on several internet food sites as a speedy method for barbecuing the holiday bird. Several weeks before Thanksgiving I bought a six-pound capon just to practice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right tools. I needed a sharp clever and a mallet to make strong whacks through the backbone. Instead, I resorted to vigorous sawing with my serrated bread knife. It worked, but the sawn backbone was rough along the edges. Also, I needed a boning knife to cut around the edge of the breast bone, severing it from the rib cage. I got it right on one side, but the other side looked like a collapsed lung.
“Spatchcock” is an Irish term that means “dispatch the cock.” I can see some medieval Irish housewife standing in the barnyard, declaring that the mean old bastard has to go, referring to an irascible rooster who outlived his usefulness. “Dispatch the cock!” she declaimed with her arm raised. I wonder if her husband shuddered in his rubber boots.
Admitting how much I enjoyed spatchcocking a capon just for practice might make me seem like a figment of Stephen King’s imagination. The truth is that being a housewife is getting on my nerves. My family is gone. My spouse is getting cranky. I feel like time is running out. I need a new hobby. I’m getting a wee bit peevish.
Nancy Harris McLelland taught creative writing, composition, and literature for over twenty years and Conducted writing workshops for the Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College , and the Great Basin Writing Project . An Elko County native with a background in ranching. McLelland has presented her "Poems from Tuscarora" Both at daytime and evening events at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Her essay, "Border Lands: Cowboy Poetry and the Literary Canon" is in the anthology Cowboy Poetry Matters .