09 January 2011

Kick Start

Our new year has started out with a bang. I visited California, saw my best friend from high school get married, started a new job, butchered my chickens (yes, I did) and started a new diet/lifestyle. Oh ya and I went to the Price Is Right and saw Drew Carey in person. What haven't I done?

Let's start at the beginning, in California -- where it always starts. I visited my grandma and the rest of my mom's side of the family. Most of that time consisted of playing games and eating and just visiting with family.

My grandma lives on a manmade lake in Northern California and it's really lovely and peaceful there. I enjoyed seeing the sun for the first time (it felt like) since summer. In Portland even when it isn't raining it is still cloudy. So I relished the sunshine.

Then a couple days later we drove to Southern California where my parents live. This was especially appropriate since I am currently reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac and was reading about Kerouac's time a cotton picker in the Central Valley of California. Never better timing.

That same day that we drove down to S. CA I went to my friend Jenny's wedding rehearsal and bachelorette party. It was all pretty mellow which was fine by me, six hours of driving and then major people interaction is sometimes a bit much. The next day she got married to a lovely young man named Jared. I think they'll be really happy together which is a really lovely thing. Congratulations Jenny and Jared!

That was New Year's Eve, the evening was pretty chill as well. I spent it with my family and our family friends. I'm continually disappointed that the dropping of the ball is not accompanied with shattered glass and great explosions. The next day it started to snow and the Mojave Desert was pretty well covered, no more than 5 inches but that's pretty remarkable for the desert of Southern California.

The rest of my California trip was rather undocumented, partially because at CBS Studios you aren't allowed to photograph anything. So, as I said, I went on the Price Is Right. I wasn't a contestant but I was pretty centrally located in the audience so I got on the audience panning shots (if you watched 5 January 2011, I was there!). It was a really interesting experience, I went with my best friend from college, Alissa, who knew people from her church who we went with. One person of our group of thirty got picked but he was sadly not very good at guessing prices. It was really nice to see Alissa cause she'll be heading off to teach ESL in S. Korea for a year. I'm really excited for her, it should be very exciting, but I'm also sad that I won't be able to just call her whenever I feel like it. I actually know a good handful of folks who are going over to S. Korea within the next year, kind of crazy. I even entertained that idea for a while (Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, Taiwan?) but then decided: I can do it anytime, like the Peace Corps.

As for now, I just got a job at Panera which will be changing next week to Panera Cares, a non-profit where you donate instead of "pay." You're still paying but you pay the suggested price or higher or lower depending on what you're able to pay. It ends up evening out between the people who pay less than and the people who pay more than the suggested price. We will be the third Panera non-profit in the U.S. The profit goes to Make-A-Wish Foundation and the restaurant helps at-risk youth too. I'm really looking forward to being a part of this. The founder and ex-CEO of Panera, Ron Schaich will be there as we open next week, which should be cool. With that being said: I totally got a job! I may also be getting a nanny job in addition to the Panera job but that remains to be seen. Joel and I are planning on being in Portland for the next couple months and then we'll be heading back East somewhere. That somewhere is yet undecided. But it is nice to know that things are a little more stable.

Joel and I have also embarked on our new Paleo/primal diet/lifestyle. We've been doing really well at it, which I say with great relief. We've cut out gluten and sugar but not dairy which some people say is not true to the diet but is definitely in debate amongst the Paleo-ers.

The other night we made Southern corn bread (with no flour) and Shepherd's Pie with a mashed cauliflower top, filled with our farm co-op grass fed beef and in-season vegetables.

This morning I made a potato hash with a fried egg on top for breakfast. This was our first Sunday breakfast together since I've been back and we've been on the diet so it was a little sad not to make pancakes. Certainly there are substitutes (buckwheat, almond meal, etc.) but we're keeping it pretty mellow right now.

Last night we went out for barbecue ribs and that was lovely, we went to Podnah's Pit Barbecue and it was absolutely amazing. We got pinto beans and potato salad on the side. We started the meal with a blue cheese wedge salad, which is a pretty lame salad but in spite of that was still really good. We finished the meal with a little bit of fudging, we split a piece of pecan pie -- and good heavens it was a good decision! It was made with molasses instead of the all-too-common halfway-caramelized brown sugar pecan pies that are often found at church potlucks and chain restaurants. Overall though, it was a really great meal and we were even able to eat pretty close to Paleo. So very delicious.

Warning: Chicken Butchering Photos
These pictures are not really gruesome, no bloody heads, no photos of hacking, but all the same, I respect that some people are vegan and are not into this sort of thing, or have easily upset stomachs, so I have saved a little space to warn you before showing any photos. Truly they aren't that bad. Without further ado: the butchering.

It was a tough decision to make but make it we did. We decided to butcher our four chickens two days ago. They had stopped laying and we had originally decided when they were chicks that the chickens were not meant to be pets. We were practicing being farmers. So the chickens stopped laying and we were finding it increasingly hard to think of a reason to keep them around. Right before I left for California we both arrived at the decision to butcher them when I returned. This was not an easy decision but it was the right one.

We decided to do it at night while they were roosting so that A.) They wouldn't make a fuss, B.) They would already be relatively sedate and C.) They would be easy to catch. The black Australorp was the first one to be dispatched since she was roosting on the farthest side. It took us several tries before we found a knife that was sharp enough. A word to the wise: Use a utility knife, not a kitchen knife. We watched a small-scale poultry butcher do it the day after and they used a utility knife -- it would have made everything easier. We held them upside down before dispatching them in order to put them into an even more sedate disposition. What that does is it gives them a "head rush" and they kind of pass out so that when you butcher them they don't really feel much and are pretty unaware. Though the awareness of a chicken while not in this state is also pretty debatable. It was all very emotionally and physically hard since we didn't really know what to expect since this was our first time doing this. Next time should be easier and we'll know better.

We dressed them in the garage and it took a while. The main thing that took the longest was de-feathering the chickens, one of our chickens was molting (in the middle of winter? I know, not the smartest) so she had a lot of under-developed pin-feathers. You can see her in this photo, her skin is kind of blotchy because she was a black bird to begin with. We ended up not keeping much of her skin because it was so pin-feathery, absolutely impossible to pluck.

We didn't save the gizzards, heart or liver this time since we weren't positive about all the organs. It was unfortunate that we got rid of so much but as a first time I felt like it was permissible.

We did save the feet, however, so that we can make aspic later, which chicken feet are really good for.

The dressing went pretty smoothly in any case simply because we'd disassembled chickens before, though hadn't eviscerated any prior to this experience.

Overall it was an interesting experience and I'm sure we'll do it again. It would be nice to have others help us since it did end up being a lot of work, unexpectedly. And luckily now we know (sort of) what we are doing. Overall it was a positive, if a bit exhausting experience.

And reading this must have been an exhausting experience -- what a long post! More to come on our new diet and what we've been eating. What a good and rip-roaring start to the year!

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