Monday, August 03, 2009

Don't cry for me, overweight chicken...
I saw FOOD, INC. almost two weeks ago at Red River Theatres and I can't get the documentary out of my head. It's the first time I've felt like crying over a chicken.

Okay, well, not technically the first time. I think it was actually when we moved to a small, three-acre farm in Sharon Center, Ohio. When my mom placed our order for our new chicks, she and my father were delighted to learn that they would receive ONE FREE ROOSTER for every dozen chicks. ONE FREE ROOSTER? Wow. It was like they won the lottery or something. So a few months after the 72 hens and 6 roosters grew up, we learned first-hand why the company might ship us all these free roosters: they were fighting. And I'm not talking a little pecking here or there, but a blood sport. There's a reason cock fighting is illegal.

And so my father invited his old-country Italian parents out for the weekend. And as he and my grandmother slit the throats of four roosters, my mom, my brothers and I hid in the master bedroom and balled our eyes out.

Still, that didn't get me out of my chores of plucking feathers and gutting the meat.

A few days later, as we sat down to a home-made dinner of fried rooster with a family from Cleveland, my dad picked up a leg and asked aloud, "I wonder who this is?" (Naturally we had named EACH rooster.) That was it: while their family ate the "best fried chicken they'd ever tasted," my family and I ate greens and whatever other veges my mother had cooked up for us that evening.

Years later, I would learn to accept the "savage" side of farming. While it's easy to eat the picked and pulled veges from the garden, it's not always easy to chow down on the animals who so easily become part of your life when you take care of them daily.

Take our first two cows for example. The morning after receiving them on our next farm, a couple-hundred-old cool homestead on about ten acres located eight miles from our three-acre starter farm, my father left for work warning me not to name the cows. That night I told him the two heifers were "Clem" and "Tine." Get it? Dad didn't laugh. The next night he returned home from his day job as a manager in a steel plant and informed me that he'd sold three halves of the two cows. It took my eight-year-old mind a few minutes to grasp, but once I realized what that meant I left the dinner table and went to my room to cry myself to sleep.

Still, what we did on our farm--raising grass-fed beef and sheep, and horses (which we did NOT eat), and goats (there's nothing to eat on them, trust me), and pigs (more a pain in the arse then they're worth...which prompted my mom to finally donate them to Oklahoma State University's agricultural program when we moved to a 20-acre ranch out there)--anyway, raising these animals as we did with the personal touch, made me want to cry when I saw the fat chickens that could hardly walk in FOOD, INC.

And so tonight, as my husband and I talked about walking downtown to grab a bite to eat, I couldn't get FOOD, INC. out of my mind. By the time he jumped from the shower (after his 25-mile bike ride) I had broiled up some green tomatoes from our garden, cleaned fresh lettuce (also from our garden), microwaved some"fakin" (soy-made vegetarian bacon...while trying not to think too much about that evil empire known as Monsanto), and chilled some local micro-brewed beers. And thus we enjoyed a fresh dinner in our backyard garden.

Can I thank FOOD, INC. for tonight's repast? Maybe, but I'd like to thank my mom and dad instead: for showing me the charms and chores of growing up on a farm (and ranch) in the many middles of nowhere in America.

Bon appetite!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pare it down...
Can you write a complete, complex and compelling story in 25 words or less? It's called Hint Fiction and the best will tentatively be published in an anthology by W.W. Norton in 2010. Submit your two best Hint Fiction pieces by August 31; anthology submission guidelines are listed HERE. Good luck!

(Above is a picture I took of my Mother's Day Pear Tree planted in one of our several new gardens we put in this year.)