No, not one of our beloved pets, of course. But STILL.
So, I volunteered to make a dinner for a mom from our homeschool co-op who had emergency surgery. Here's the catch: Their family does not eat dairy. My family (read: I) does not eat gluten -- I don't make separate dinners for myself and my family. Here's the other catch: This friend? Is? A CHEF.
Awash in a wave of paranoia, I could not think of a single transportable meal to cook. Therefore, I did what any self-respecting person would do and posted a desperate status update on Facebook. Within minutes, I was informed that I should be making Chicken Marbella, from the Silver Palate cookbook. (Personal Note: If I were marooned on a desert island and could only have three cookbooks with me, my Silver Palate would be among them. It's that crucial to my survival.)
Armed with a couple of hormone-free broiler hens from Costco, I checked my directions this morning and found that I was supposed to have marinated them overnight. Yay me. But here's the kicker: I had to quarter them first.
I quailed. Please! Give me dental surgery! Give me waiting in line at Sea World! Give me walking barefoot a public pool in puddles of warm, slightly slimy water! Just ... not ... the quartering of a poultry carcass.
Normally I foist this job onto the Professor, in fact I'm pretty sure that figured somewhere in our wedding vows, but he had the gall to go to work and abandon me to my own devices. It's just me versus the bird. Again to the Internet I go. VideoJug offers an instructive video in which the cook neatly, tidily, renders the chicken into six perfect, juiceless parts. And talks about popping joints. Deep breath. I can do this.
So there I am, in my kitchen, averting my eyes from the view of the yard, where our five cheerful hens are innocently strutting around eating mosquito eggs and earning their rent. Do not look at the chickens outside. Do NOT.
And as I attack the bird, I discover that the VideoJug chef was using a super-awesome, super-sharp knife, while I am using a knife that was awesome and sharp in its glory days. My friends, I am here to tell you, this makes a difference.
Also, nowhere in the VideoJug feature did I see a four year old helper uttering the following sampling of helpful phrases every few seconds:
"Mom. That is DISGUSTO. I am leaving the room." [Oh that this would actually occur!]
"Ew. Do you know how gross that looks? What is the skin for? Is that fat, Mom? Is it? Why don't you eat it? What do you mean it's not good for your heart? What would happen to your heart if you ate it?"
"Mom, Bear Grylls ate a DEAD SHEEP once." [Terrific, honey. Could you get him on speed dial for me?]
As I saw away, mimicking the VideoJug chef's work in the way that a pigeon resembles a peacock, I consider profanity, but God and the four year old being on the premises, I resort instead to creative visualization and yoga breathing. I picture the friendly smile of the mom for whom I am cooking. I do not picture her wearing her chef's hat. I picture the sailing excursion the Professor and I took years ago in Hawaii. I do not picture my sunburned toes.
Of course, every two minutes I have to scrub my hands in hot water and soap to go consult VideoJug again. Turns out, when your mind is in Hawaii, it's not really retaining much information that's actually relevant to your current situation.
Half an hour later, I have two fully quartered chickens happily marinating away in a delightful sauce. I have a clean, sanitized countertop. I have broth simmering on the stove, fragrant with bay leaves and elephant garlic. The house smells almost heartbreakingly wonderful. To all appearances, it's been a June Cleaver kind of morning.
Oh, how deceiving appearances can be.