Get your freshly slaughtered meat here!
One of the hazards (or pleasures) of this business is that if I write something often enough, I start to believe it.
I have quoted dozens of people waxing lyrical over the deliciousness of freshly slaughtered meat. As their enthusiasm over the city’s new butcher shop grew to a fever pitch (to the point where I had people e-mailing me for updates on construction progress a YEAR before the owner was ready to open) I started to develop a hankering for the food myself.
After so many years writing about it, I had to try it.
But I must admit I was a little scared. What does freshly slaughtered bird consist of, precisely? Do I have to (shudder) pluck it myself? I’m all for being willing to kill the food you eat, but I don’t even like gutting fish. It’s not the gore — it’s the time and the dirtiness and...well, okay, it’s the gore.
I can eat freshly killed chicken. But I wasn’t sure if I was ready to watch my hand-picked chicken get its head chopped off, and then rip apart its still-warm body as I stripped it of all living accoutrements.
So naturally I turned to my boyfriend for help.
I can hear the feminists screaming from here. I’m sorry. But he grew up in India where people eat freshly killed meat all the time, and frankly I figured that if I was faced with feathered slab of meat, it would be a lot easier to get him to do it than do it myself.
My friends helpfully prepared me for this experience by spending half an hour discussing how gross, frightening, or sickening it might be. They reminded me that I get physically ill when I see blood. (This is, sadly, true.)
They also questioned my willingness to actually eat food that was alive moments earlier, but on that I have no qualms: I am completely at peace with the idea of killing mindless animals for my nutrition.
At restaurants when I’m asked how I want my steak cooked, I say, “Bring the cow into the kitchen, show it the fire, let it scream for a second and then quickly chop off a piece and bring it out to me.”
(I’ve said this for years. It generally gets me a long, silent look, followed by the half-question, “So...you want it rare, then?”)
I assured my friends that I was ready to eat freshly killed chicken. So off we went to the new butcher, the Broadway Live Poultry Market, which can only be found if you turn off Broadway onto Weaver Street, just past the I-890 underpass.
The boyfriend pointed out the chicken he wanted. (His advice: Pick the liveliest.) It was unceremoniously carried off to the scale, weighed in at 7 pounds, and whisked mercifully into a back room where I didn’t have to watch it get killed.
We waited a long time. I began to hope that the butcher was doing the plucking himself.
Finally, he reappeared and handed us a piping hot bag of chicken meat. Not a feather in sight. (Whew!)
So now for the real test: the taste. Would it really be so much better, as everyone kept telling me? Would this be a life-changing culinary experience?
To be scientific about it, we cooked a meal I’ve had many times with boring old long-dead chicken. That way I would not be distracted by new tastes and could simply evaluate the meat.
And I must admit, it was better. Not much better. Not life-changingly better. But better nonetheless. The meat was springier, fresher, more vibrant. It wasn’t so good that I’d drive to New York City just to buy it (as some folks I interviewed used to do), but it was good enough that I plan to go back there many, many times.
I’m going to get a goose, next. But I don’t think I have quite enough guts to buy a pigeon.