I hate chicken. I really, really detest chicken. I freaking loath it. I do not really hate anything in the universe. Nothing that most people would think was hateable. Things like colds, or investment bankers or Donald Trump. Colds, non-discriminatory illnesses that I usually get once a year – nothing to do about them. Cannot conjure up negative emotion for a little virus that wants to live in my body until my immune system boots it out. Investment bankers, just mostly men who have families to feed. They probably also have small penises or inferiority complexes or inferiority complexes brought about by having small penises which cause them to gamble with the world’s economies in order to make pots of feel-better money. Oh well, money makes the world go around and a guy has to make a living. Donald Trump, I’m not American so cannot vote in their election and although I might take umbrage to some of his statements, most are so laughable and pathetic that the most negative sentiment I can conjure towards him is pity. Pity for being so stupid really.
In fact even people, places and things that I have probable cause to hate are completely unknown to my emotional range, all except chicken. I hate chicken. I think my hatred started when I was a teenager. I had a job working in a butcher shop every Saturday. It was my first job and I got $60 in cash every week. I helped in the back and served customers. I worked there for four years, eventually working full-time in the summers and holidays. I loved that job, I even started the transition to vegetarianism during the years I was employed there, but my decision to not eat meat had nothing to do with the work and my love for the environment never waned. There were six of us girls working with two butchers and we had a lot of fun in that shop. There are some really weird practical jokes that you can play with meat and knives. Maybe you had to be there… We sold every type of meat in various cuts and if we didn’t have what the customer wanted we would find it or custom cut it. During hunting season we would have kills hanging in the cooler waiting to be cut. I hated going into the cooler when the beautiful bucks and deer would be hanging by their hind legs with their vacant but beautiful eyes open. I really couldn’t stomach that but not as much as I couldn’t stomach chicken.
We got our chicken orders from the local chicken factory. We brought in breasts, thighs and whole chickens. They came packed in fiberglass cases with melting ice on top. We would take them out of their crates, place them neatly on the stainless steel butcher trays and then put them in the window. Out of us six girls, I was one of only two who could ‘do the chicken’. What that meant is that the two of us were the only ones who didn’t get rashes from the tips of our fingers to the crock of our elbows whilst taking the chicken products out of the boxes and put them on the trays. Even us non-affected would wash our arms after completing our task and then feel a bit itchy for the rest of the day. If we had to prepare or cut the chicken in a further way we always washed the knives and butcher’s block with very hot soapy water immediately after we were done. From all of this I learned one thing: chicken is a dirty, dirty bird.
You can bring up arguments about factory farms and slaughter houses and how the mechanisation of meat has affected the cleanliness and healthfulness of all the meat we humans consume but years after I stopped eating chicken, my husband cooked up a chicken that his parents raised and killed. It was a happy chicken, free from artificial food and hormones that spent its days pecking the ground of a village in the Turkish countryside. My husband was convinced that if I ate a piece of that chicken I would realise that I didn’t really hate chicken, I just hated certain chickens. Maybe it was my brain addled with those pesky chemicals that it gets flooded with when newly in love, but I gave that chicken a go. As I said, I am not a hater and deep down a part of me probably wanted to release my hatred of chickens. I had but one morsel of that dead happy chicken. It was greasy, tough, and still dirty, dirty, dirty. I managed to swallow the piece in my mouth but I didn’t put another one in and my hatred was further amplified.
I could probably just forget about my hatred of the domesticated bird-that-is-not-turkey, but my husband simply adores chicken. He usually eats it outside of the house, which is his own gross business, but often his cousin will come over for dinner bearing, yes, you guessed it chicken, every freaking time! His poor cousin must think that I hate him because when he comes in the house with his bag of chicken my face falls to my feet. I know what is coming. My husband doesn’t expect me to cook the chicken for him, he, in a chicken-loving trance, does that himself, but he does expect me to clean up after him. My revulsion starts from the moment he is cooking it, the steam and grease seem to coat the entire kitchen. I just want to gag from the smell. The other day he put it in the wood burning stove and for some reason the smoke from the oven wasn’t drawing properly so we had chicken smoke piling into the house. I went practically out of my mind. The stench of the smoke and the sound of the searing chicken flesh was just too much to bear. By the time I had to wash the chicken debris off their grease coated plates I was in quite the bad mood. I honestly had thoughts of divorce, just so I wouldn’t have to endure the hell again and again. Yes, divorce over chicken! That is how much I hate chicken!
Of course the fact of my chicken hatred makes my musings on divorce for a chicken-free life laughable because although I didn’t know it, since the day I met my husband I was allowing chicken into my life. I met my husband on holiday and I promised him I would come back to visit him when the tourist season was winding down so that we could see if we were meant for each other or not. The hotel that we stayed at was in the centre of town in a more residential area then the resort I had first stayed at. The first night we were there, I was surprised to be woken up by the crowing of a nearby rooster. My husband explained that there were lots of chicken in the area. I didn’t really let it bother me because every night we were enjoying the Bodrum nightlife. Falling asleep drunk and exhausted made for a coma like sleep that even a noisy chicken couldn’t penetrate. I didn’t give it a second thought even though I should have because when we moved to Bodrum years later, before the birth of our child, we ended up in a very old section of the city. It is the older generations that hang onto their notion that they must raise chickens so our neighborhood was crawling with them! The disturbance from the roosters was unbelievable. Our next door neighbors owned the land behind our house and kept chickens there. I swear they had about 10 roosters! 10 roosters! I mean what is the point? One male can impregnate lots of females. I wanted to give them a biology book! A few doors down on the left hand side of the house and across the street was another chicken clan. A very smelly, one at that. In the other direction there was a very large house beside a car park, which the residents of the house owned, and their chickens were in there; the car park! I used to want to steal my husband’s taxi, make out as if I wanted to park in the parking lot and go kamikaze on the resident chicken population. I wanted to do 360’s all around that gravel lot and try to take out as many chickens as I could.
For those of you who do not have any experience of chickens, they crow not just at dawn to let you know it is morning but all night. Not the childhood book, “The cow says moo, the sheep says baa, the rooster says cockadoodaldo”, no, roosters caw as if they are in fear of their lives. Every rooster has its own unique call; some being barely noticeable and some being downright scary. One of our neighbors’ roosters, sounded as if it had a mental illness and a speech impediment. The sound that came out of it was confusing at best and soul-searing at worst. When I was sleep deprived and hormonal, I sometimes used to put a sleeping baby on the bed and before I joined her in slumber, stand at the window and pretend my hand was a gun and I was gunning down that maniacal chicken. I hated that chicken and all of the other chickens that used to hear and respond to his four am call. Back and forth they would go. On and on and on. It was enough to want to jump out that window and hope that the bastard bird provided you with a feathery landing.
One of the reasons we moved house was because I was being driven insane by those roosters’ nocturnal communications. We are not chicken free in our new house however, no that would be an impossibility in Turkey (I might as well live in a country called Chicken!) Our neighbors have chickens, albeit only a couple of dozen and only two roosters. One cockadoodaldo and then the other one answers, they do this a couple of times and rather unconvincingly because they have their own separate coops with their own separate harems. They are fat, lazy chickens with no need to prove themselves. They are also total scaredy cats. I cannot fathom how they even think of approaching a scorpion and pecking it to death. If you make a loud noise they squawk and run for miles. Not that I do it on purpose, but seriously! I dropped a log the other day and you would have thought it was a nuclear bomb! Not only are they dirty, but they are noisy cowards as well. They are also totally stupid and heartless. The other week we went to see our neighbors (about a 15 foot walk) and the lady of the house directed my daughter and I to the wood burning stove where there was a chick that they brought into warm. It was so small that it was in a glass ashtray. One of the standard round ones that you would find in a restaurant over here. It was covered by a yellow dish cloth. I picked up the corner of it to show the baby and the poor little mite had died. It had basically frozen to death whilst its mother went out pecking aimlessly at the ground. What a negligent mother! What is not to hate here? Why oh, why am I surrounded by those that I hate! Chickens!
I remember being in a house in India once. The man of the house was named Rajan. He was a friend of the chap I was travelling with and we were visiting him and his girlfriend. To say that Rajan was eccentric would be a total understatement. He loved grass and by grass I mean weed. I mean marijuana, but not what the kids smoke now a days, not even the hashish that was most common in India at the time, but proper, I-grew this-in-my-garden weed. Probably like the stuff they used to smoke in the 60’s: sweet and mellow and barely enough to get you high. He had this big round brass plate that he kept his weed in. He would practically hug it to himself and roll joint after joint. The man spent his days in a strange euphoric state. Despite this or maybe because of it, he was a very intelligent, articulate, interesting person; a total pacifist. That was his natural set point. He loved Gandhi and Hinduism and vegetarianism. He was a cool, cool dude. One night we were over at Rajan’s place drinking moonshine and the four of us got on a real spiritual bent. Maybe it was the drink (almost made me go blind) or maybe he had actually shared some of his weed, but we went down a rabbit hole about reincarnation and karma and respect for sentient beings. I remember him saying that if he was the last man alive, if he was starving to death, if he was the only hope for humanity and he saw a chicken walk in front of him, he would let the chicken go. He wouldn’t reach out and grab the chicken and ring its neck. He wouldn’t steal that chicken’s life to save his own. He looked at the other three of us in the room and said: “Now I ask you, would you eat that chicken? Would you eat that chicken?” I think that I had lost the power to speak at that point, but I remember saying in my head, yelling in my head: “No, no, no, I would not eat that chicken! I hate chicken! I would rather die than eat that dirty birdy!” I loved Rajan as much as I hated chicken. I remember thinking that he should start a commune because he would get lots of non-chicken eating followers. I might have become one of them even though my motivation for sparing the chicken was one of pure hatred and not one of pure love. Still, it was a nice idea… Even as I sit here typing this I do not have to look up and see what just passed our open door. I know what it was. It was a happy chicken pecking its way across my field of vision. It is moments like these that I think about Rajan and the spiritual guru he could have been, the follower I could have been. Sitting around an ashram in loose robes meditating all day. A chicken free life. Maybe I would have learned how to release my chicken hatred and become a better person, but that didn’t happen. Instead I am sitting here stuck with my hatred and with the object of my hatred. Chicken. I hate chicken!