Friday, June 18, 2010

Coq au vin

I have the uneasy feeling our rooster is not long for this world. The fated fowl resides at the barn on the family farm located just north of Blanding. He is the cock-of-the-walk and barnyard buckaroo of 26 hens cooped together in a familial effort to raise farm fresh eggs. As part of the ongoing project, we collect greens and other suitable poultry produce from Twin Rocks Cafe to feed and nourish the gumpy group. Chicken feed fortified with fresh fruit and vegetable matter allow for some very tasty cackle berries. The problem with the rooster first came to light when Laurie noticed the hens were loosing feathers while looking and acting a bit more than bedraggled. My dear wife can be a fearsome proponent of the underdog or, in this case, barnyard biddy. Laurie was certain that banty beast was picking on the hens, causing them to purge their plumage. To her this is an untenable circumstance, one requiring intervention.

Navajo Folk Art Rooster

Personally I did not pay much attention to the state of affairs surrounding the hens or the cockalorum that rousted their fluff. Other than one run-in with the barnyard bully, wherein he attacked my footwear when I first entered his little kingdom to gather eggs. The crazed cock-a-doodle-do had thrown himself upon my shoe with a highly aggressive attitude. My initial reaction was to strike back in similar fashion, whereupon the hapless fellow found himself plastered to the chicken wire reeling with delerium. After that encounter I assumed we had an understanding, because from that point on he stayed on the far side of the enclosure when I entered. Certainly he vocally vented his frustration at my daily appointments, but the demented fellow maintained his distance.

Laurie on the other hand was not about to tolerate such an intrusion of poultry privacy. I suggested that the complicating factor may not stem from the rooster. Had she not heard the term "pecking order?" Tongue in cheek I explained that the basic concept behind establishment of the pecking order among, for example chickens, is that it is necessary to determine who is the "top chicken," the "bottom chicken" and where all the rest fit in between. The establishment of the hierarchy is believed to reduce the incidence of conflicts that incur a greater expenditure of energy. The dominance level determines which individual gets preferential access to food and mates. Laurie gave me a harsh look and said; "Don't think I don't recognize a lame attempt at pointed parallel relationship related jabs when I hear one!" "Huh!" I said feigning innocence and trying to make sense of the string of words she had just exuded. She was convinced the rooster was causing the hens undue stress, and she was not happy about it. The pecking order was not in question, but the rooster was being charged with high treason.

After doing some research of her own, Laurie was convinced the rooster was the culprit bringing about the excessive loss of fringe to our poor poultry. She was also convinced that the noticeable slowdown in egg production was a by-product of that marauding rooster. She reasoned that by removing the culprit the lost plumage would return, as would a higher egg yield. She was making sense, and I was beginning to feel empathy for the bad boy banty. The poor fellow was facing extermination for what came natural to him. I tried to convince Laurie not to interfere with the normal course of chicken order, but she was undeterred. "Chickens do not need roosters to produce eggs!", she stated. I gasped at the implications, and worried at the future of the world as I know it. There was a primal scream of indignation reverberating through my brain, somehow I must find a way to save the poor beast.

The next day I found myself working at the cafe looking over the shoulder of "Chef Blevins," our new, multi-talented and highly eccentric cook. As he prepared his tantalizingly tasty version of chicken salad, I shared my concerns for the safety of said rooster. "Coq au vin" he muttered as he chopped chicken breasts. "Excuse me?" I replied. "Bring the rooster to me," said the Chef, "I will take care of it for a time and then create a Southwest version of coq au vin." He explained that coq au vin was French for cockerel in wine, a fricassee of rooster cooked with vino, lardons, mushrooms and garlic. Older capon roosters are traditionally used, because they contain a lot of connective tissue which creates a richer broth when cooked. A capon is a cockerel castrated to improve the flesh. "Dude!" I exclaimed. On several fronts things were looking bad for our abusively fraternizing foul. Like my daughter McKale, I cannot eat something I know personally. I backed out of the kitchen carefully and left the knife wielding Chef to his breasts.

After these episode, I have decided that socially-minded women and crazy cooks are not the ones to determine the fate of misunderstood roosters. I am a proponent of live and let live, unless someone or something musses-up my new shoes. So, upon my intervention on behalf of the rooster, Laurie, Chef Blevins and I came to an understanding of sorts. If anyone out there can or will offer a ridiculous rooster safe haven, please call 1-800-deadbirdwalking, and I will deliver an aggressive Rhode Island Red to your doorstep (within a reasonable travel distance). Otherwise the ax will fall and garlic will be crushed.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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