Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the 7th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me: 7 Hens A-Laying

"On the seventh day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me:
7 hens a-laying
6 cats a-sleeping,
5 More Minutes!
4 calm equines,
3 fuzzy dogs,
2 flightless birds,
and an old farm in the country."
Few simple things cause me to be more grateful than my chickens. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Bear with me here...

I am not Poultry Woman. I generally prefer my animals furry to feathered. My chickens (as opposed to the horses, dogs, cats, & indoor birds) are not members of my family. They get fed and watered every day and locked up at night. Other than that, they have free range of the farm. So it's not them, exactly, for which I am grateful. It is their eggs -- those portable pockets of gold -- that have me singing their praises all year round.

I love to cook and to bake. I enjoy food from all regions of the world and (I daresay) I make a very passable cook. But whenever someone raves over my baked goods, or my egg drop soup, or my custards, I know that the real kudos belong to my feathered friends taking dust baths beside the barn.

"Born free...!"
I've had people ask for recipes and then accuse me of holding out on them. "It doesn't taste the same as yours!" I blame inferior eggs on their part instead of any malice aforethought on mine.

I know city people (my BFF's Mother-in-Law is Exhibit A) who refuse to eat farm-fresh eggs because "they came directly from the chickens." Which makes no sense to me. These are the same people who literally think milk comes in a plastic jug and steak comes in styrofoam trays. They exist in deliberate, willful ignorance. And I can't help but feel sorry for how much they are missing out on.

In the summer, between the chickens and ducks, we have more eggs than we can eat. I give away the surplus to friends who quickly become used to foods tasting and looking better. When winter comes, and the surplus is gone, my friends bemoan the necessity of storebought eggs. I share their pain.

The last time I bought eggs in a store is the last time I'll ever buy eggs in a store. The entire family noticed a difference in taste, texture, and appearance. My 8 year-old daughter started a trend that the whole family soon followed when she asked "what is that?" and refused to eat the barely-yellow yolk and rubberized white of a fried egg from the store.

We are spoiled. We freely admit it.  Because of my chickens, I really believe my food tastes better and is more nutritious. And every time I search for eggs (one MilleFleur hen is notorious for hiding her nests), clean the chicken coop, collect eggs, or crack one open, I am grateful.

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