Bringing a chicken home for dinner used to be an adventure.
I’m not talking about deciding free-range v. organic v. air-chilled.

I’m talking pointing to a live, clucking chicken, and finger-slicing your throat.
I’m talking The Chicken House, or
“Old World food shopping as art.”

Probably not its name.
It’s what we called it: The Chicken House.

Few real adventures in markets in the U.S.
I do, however, like the couple of places around Boston that give one a shake at taking pleasure from food shopping.

Thinking Bouillabaisse, here; thinking both Eataly and Market Basket for variety of fish offered.
Giving Eataly the definite edge since there you speak with a live fish monger who knows his (always ‘his’ in my experiences at Eataly) trade.
Eataly also wraps the exact quantity you want, v. the pre-wrap at M Basket.

Just look at their selection of langoustine, the orange-pink 10” lobster, tiny, often called scampi in Europe while in America scampi usually refers to shrimp in garlic and oil; and, next to the langoustines, the shrimp or other small crustaceans which resemble shrimp. We’ll find smaller and larger shrimp (oxymoron unintended) here, several with heads on, an exotic to enhance any dish. Larger shrimp sometimes called prawns.

I don’t want to sound like a billboard for them so I won’t mention the variety of fresh fish, from the tiniest species to the larger.

When I buy conch for the Bouillabaisse I enjoy thinking about the individual treatment they get; what they bring to the event. And octopus. I love Bouillabaisse for the shopping of it.

Makes your mouth water.
Makes us happy to be at the top of the food chain.
Provides an adventure.

Today is Sunday, June 17, 2018
Good morning, my friends.
This is my seventy-first consecutive daily posting.

It’s 1.33am, I woke up and being in bed at this moment is uncomfortable; I thought I’d try to get an early blog out.
My son beat me to it, sending me Father’s Day greetings even earlier than this.
A nice day in Boston. Perhaps a trifle hot.

On the screen: “Pygmalion,” a 1938 British film based on the George Bernard Shaw play of the same name, and adapted by him for the screen. It stars Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller.

The film was a financial and critical success, and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and three more nominations.

The screenplay was later adapted into the 1956 theatrical musical My Fair Lady, which in turn led to the 1964 film of the same name.
Shaw was a true master of English.
What a delight is Pygmalion.

I’m at my desk.
Dinner is a version of Blanquettes de Veau, using a combination of heavy cream, chicken stock (on hand) and leftover sauce from the Chicken Cacciatore I had yesterday.

Readers’ Comments
Ron Fuccillo sent more material for his page.
Check it our in the Boston’s Italian North End section, the eponymous page, Ron Fuccillo.

Today’s Post
The Chicken House, or “the Art of Old World food shopping.”
Probably not its name.
It’s what we called it: The Chicken House.

Housed on the ground floor of one of the few architecturally significant buildings in the North End of Boston, from the early 20th century when, as a kosher slaughterhouse it sold its product to a mostly Jewish clientele, among whom was made many variations of the world-wide famous Jewish chicken soup – a panacea for upset stomachs, something piping hot against the cold, and a lotion for broken hearts.

Newly-moved in Italians also patronized The Chicken House and also made chicken soup. And added Chicken Cacciatore and Roasted Chicken with garlic and olive oil as additional destinations for the birds.

I’m sure the Chinese also made quality chicken soups and also versions of General Tsao’s (aka Gao’s) Chicken, a sweet, deep-fried chicken dish served in North American Chinese restaurants

Walking to the street where they lived, one found the unmarked storefront by one’s nose: the smells emanating from it, assertive and dramatic, smelling of death.

The ‘buck, buck, buck’ sounds of the unhappy prisoners-on-death-row birds, the whirring and slapping ‘thwomps’ of the rubber spikes of the cleaning machines slamming against the exteriors of the limp chickens, ripping off their feathers, and the demanding shouts of the men calling out the order numbers of the chickens ready for pickup, raising their voices to be heard against the din.

Inside, the air is filled with the stench of chicken blood, entrails, poop and pee, hot rubber, sweat, steam and people; and is permeated with a fine dust of dirt, scurf, dander and feathers.
We see a sawdust floor, walls crammed with cages and a line of patient Jews, Italians, and old-world Chinese gents and ladies, they having walked a mile from Chinatown, all waiting for service.
We see women and men moving slowly from cage to cage, top to bottom, side by side, feeling breasts, no nipples, no complaints, pointing out their selection to one of the rubber-aproned workers.
He grabs the feet of the chosen bird, unceremoniously pulls it from the cage and swings it as he walks, the bird flapping and screaming, embellishing the theatre, until the rubber-suited twists its wings around each other to still it.

The chicken is brought to the slaughterhouse-processing plant-butcher shop, a relatively small area on the other side of the counter separating the workers from the customers.
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There, in full view of the assembled customers, its throat is coolly slit, and the bird is hung by its feet to bleed out while we watch and wait.

The Chicken House floor runs red with blood.
We’re actors in a Grade-B Mafia-movie.

After several post-death convulsions, it gives its spirit to the Chicken-God and its body to us.

Da da Da da.
Da da Da da.
Da da Da da.
Da da Da da.

Entering the Twilight Zone.

Then the chicken is cleaned, gutted and cut into pieces at our direction.  

“Do you want the feet?” we’re asked.

“Yes, please,” the woman answers.
The bird is wrapped with its feet and handed to us in exchange for coin.
We carry it home, our package still warm from life just ended.

Miscellany:
The Chicken House birds didn’t get dropped in iced chlorinated water wherein their taste and texture are devastated; and wherein the bird gets heavier with the addition of bleach and water.

Whether small children should view violent death so close-at-hand, perpetrated so coolly, requires a very personal response.
Neither my mother nor I hesitated to bring our children and the experience never bothered any of them.

Years ago, we had a big house on Cape Cod that was still zoned for farming.
Our substantial acreage provided us the opportunity to raise chickens and rabbits for our own consumption.
My children loved having them.
They fed and cleaned them, and against my orders, they named them.
When the time came to kill them for dinner, everyone watched uncle Mark dispatch them and no one got upset.
At dinnertime, the boys suffered no loss of appetite even if they knew the name of the rabbit or chicken we were eating.
Sorry, Madeleine.

Gentrification of the North End and other parts of Boston forced out the slaughter house.
The city got cleaner; more anti-bacterial.
Less interesting.
 

Post Scripts
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Be good.
Be well.
Love you.