Perfect Morning

June 25, 2010

Light breeze, sunshine, no humidity. Woke up early with the taste of last night’s oysters still resonating in my mind. I loved the fierce bed of kimchi they were resting on; just made it was still crunchy with an intense sweetness and a lingering heat. But what I loved best was the way the chef had fried them: Crisp outside, with a custard heart. (Swoon, in Hudson).

Inspired, I’m making a lemon and herb scented brine for my chickens. Tonight I’ll roast them with new potatoes. Big salad. Can’t wait.

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Fair Fowl

June 24, 2010

Just stopped by the farm where I’ll be getting my chickens from now on. We pay $135 as our share in the CSA, for which we get 2 chickens a month for 4 months – and the satisfaction of knowing that we’re participating in the farm.

The farmer is a woman, and before she handed me two beautiful birds from the refrigerator, she led me through her barn so I could see the new chicks, little balls of yellow fluff huddled beneath a heat lamp, and the little turkeys, who have just gotten their feathers. They were about to leave the barn for the first time, and they strutted proudly about. One independent chicken skittered at our ankles; she doesn’t like spending her time with the rest of the flock, preferring the company of the pigs.

And who can blame her? They’re sweet little creatures, nosing and grunting about on the hillside. We stood leaning on the fence, watching them cavorting with an old corn cob. Hard to believe they’ll be 250 pounds by the time the leaves turn.

“But that’s $17.50 a chicken!” said a friend I met in town when I proudly displayed my chickens. She pointed to her grocery bag and said, “I just got one at the supermarket for three bucks. Can yours taste that much better?”

I tried to find a way to tell her that the way things taste is in your mind as much as your mouth. Struggling for words I finally blurted out, “Do you have any idea what your chicken’s life was like?”

She didn’t. But while it was once possible for people not to know about the conditions in animal factories, in these food-savvy times ignorance is an act of will. Why would my friend want to know about the miserable life of her factory chicken? It could only ruin her appetite.

I’ve written a lot about this issue, but I think you have to go to a farm to truly understand the price of a good conscience. The chickens I was taking away had good lives and a clean death. Giving them that isn’t cheap. But it is a price that I’m willing to pay. Because these chickens taste so much better – in every way.

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Bakudan

June 22, 2010

Had what may be my favorite lunch today at (a sadly vacant) Matsugen; they call it "bakudan" which means "the bomb." A waiter brings out a lovely little bowl containing a heap of rosy tuna tartare, a few smoothly orange uni, strips of raw squid, pearly white and squeaky clean and a pungent heap of natto. You stir this up with a quail egg and a pile of salmon roe that pop against your teeth. You shake in some soy, add a bit of wasabi and stir again.

Next you open a cedar box holding extremely crisp sheets of dark green seaweed and hold one in your hand. You roll the glorious mush you have just created into the seaweed and eat the little roll with glee and greed. And then you eat another. I could eat this every day. Happily.

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