We wanted to barbecue chicken. We were pretty sure we wanted a whole chicken and we knew we didn’t want to drive twenty minutes to the Oasis hypermarket to get one, even though that’s where normal-to-us-sized chickens can be gotten.
You see, Italian chickens are often big. Some chickens look like turkeys to me. Their turkeys? Well, I’ve never seen a whole one, but the parts I’ve seen—the breasts and the legs—make me think an entire Italian turkey might look something like an ostrich.
|Giant Italian chicken|
Since we weren’t taking the drive to the supermarket with the “regular” chickens, we had four choices.
This town, small as it is, has four butchers. One, I’ve never been in. I’ve taken pictures of pigs and lambs hanging on hooks inside it while I stood furtively on the cobbles, but I have never gone inside to buy anything. The second is the fancy butcher in what used to be a piazza and is still called one even though it’s really just a parking strip along the road can be a bit intimidating. It’s always crowded, its motion-sensor door swishing open and closed every few seconds to let more patrons into its white tiled enclave of pig parts and sausages, roasted meats and vegetables They will give me half a chicken if I ask for it, but they’ll start skinning and de-boning it before I’ve thought of the words to say to stop them and the crowd doing the Italian-no-line, stand-your-ground, push-up-front and speak-loudly-thing intimidates the hell out of me The furthest one, up the old street that runs from the pseudo-piazza to the Comune is good for fegato sausage, but that guy won’t cut one of his large chickens in half for me. The fourth butcher is in the little supermarket across the street. Two women man the counter, in their paper hats like short order cooks from 1954 and always seem slightly amused by whatever question I might have or how I might ask it, like the first time I asked them NOT to pound my chicken breasts as the mallet was about to come down. What on earth was this crazy straniera going to do with a chicken breast, if not take its pounded slices and fry them up?
I chose the supermarket butcher.
“Di’mi,” she said.
“Um. Chicken? Mezzo?” I turned to V. “Look, they’ve got the back half of one. We could get that, two legs, two thighs..... Or maybe they’d cut that whole one over there in half from top to bottom.” I made a little lateral move with my right hand.
“Si, si. Posso,” the paper hat lady said, mimicking my sign language. “Che cosa voi che fate?”
“Uh. Barrr-b-q?” I ask-wered. My typical style of response to any question in Italian that I think I understand being a one word answer in the form of a question. I’m not really sure how to answer “What do you wanna do with it?” grammatically.
Her eyes lit up. “Something-something-something freschi freschi,” she said, heading out of sight toward the door to what must be a giant fridge.
She emerged with a very frescho chicken. It was so fresh as it lay across her outstretched arms like an offering for the poultry gods that it still had its head and feet on.
“Um….possible cut the head and feet?”
“Si! Faccia un manicure,” she chuckled.
“Pedicure? And haircut?” I pleaded.
I don’t know if it was that I was so thankful she’d chopped off the head and feet so I didn’t have to do it or that I was so traumatized by looking my dinner in the eye, but I ended up telling her I’d take the whole thing which she kindly hacked into barbecue-able pieces.
We ate chicken for three days.
|Approximately one third of our freshly butchered chicken|