Let’s rewind. It’s summer 2009, and I've spent the last five minutes staring at the grocery bag I just brought home. The thick paper of the Whole Foods bag begs me to keep the cold plastic wrapped flesh and carcass safe in its confines. Deep breaths. I look around. Cutting board? Check. Really big knife I’ve never used before? Check. Rubber gloves? Check.
Somehow, I manage to hoist the chicken body onto the counter. It looks just like that: A chicken body. Without feathers. Or a head. Or wait? Did the guy at the meat counter say the head was inside? Maybe that was just the neck?
Remind me why I’m not a vegetarian? I ask. It was more of a meta-comment than anything else. But Mr. Bee begins to answer in his matter-of-fact every-question-requires-a-serious-thoughtful-answer sort of way that I really do appreciate. Most of the time.
Because you love bacon.
I sigh. He’s right. I do love bacon. And I don’t actually want to be a vegetarian. The chicken under my knife was raised at least somewhat humanely and I don’t mind the taste of the stuff once it’s cooked. Until now, I’ve always dumped in the saline filled, flash-frozen breasts straight into the crockpot or used tongs to place them (still frozen!) onto a cookie sheet to bake. But this, this fresh, floppy and juicy carcass on my counter top, felt like a whole other beast.
You don’t have to do this, Mrs. Bee. I can do it for you if you want.
Mr. Bee always deals with the meat. We pride ourselves on having a very egalitarian relationship and rarely conform to gender norms and roles without having seriously thought them over first. This one, was different though. I needed to be able to cut up the chicken. I needed to do it because I didn’t want to be dependent on Mr. Bee's availability for cooking dinner. I needed to do it so I could justify my meat eating. (There is a part of me that says if I can’t kill it and cook it, maybe I have no business eating it.) Plus, everyone knows that whole chickens are the most economical choice if you use the whole thing.
I needed to do it for myself.
Sometimes, you’ve spent so long listening to what everyone else wants you to be that you lose yourself. Other times, you work hard to be your “independent-self”, only to realize you’ve somehow squandered your authenticity in a well-meaning quest for originality. While rebellion might be the catalyst to find your own voice, it rarely leads to your true self. Or, if you are anything like me, you’ve you have spent your years whittling and refining the already narrowly defined “you.”
You know what I am talking about.
“That’s a great outfit, but I could never wear something like that. I’ve been wearing this same style for years—I wouldn’t recognize myself in anything else!”
“I love people who are artistic. I really have no talent at all. Have I tried before? Well, I don’t think you understand; I’m just not that kind of person.”
“Oh that’s okay, I’m not much of a [insert anything outside of your normal behavior here]. I’ll just watch.”
And handling raw meat, in particular, cutting up raw chicken, is one of those things that I “couldn’t” do. The capacity to rinse the smelly carcass, peel back that goosepimpled skin and cut out bits of slimy fat was something I considered myself born without. This notion was reinforced by Trader Joe’s individually frozen chicken cutlets and even family members who unintentionally critiqued my spastic cutting skills. It fundamentally contradicted
who I was who I thought I was.
But not anymore.
Things I “can’t” do by virtue of “who I am” but I am doing anyhow