Organic free range native chicken soup with some chopped inner core of a banana tree/stalk and mung beans. How’s that for a mouth full? What it was, actually, was an incredibly satisfying local soul food. Tasty, hearty, easy and honest. The story started off the night before, while discussing an incredible array of organic produce that was delivered to my host’s kitchen minutes after we had landed in Bacolod… from produce I turned to meats and our purveyor (who I will do a separate post on) mentioned that they had totally organic, free-range chickens on their farm and I must have been hopping up and down a little too much because the next day two gorgeous live oranically raised chickens were delivered to our host as a gift. At first, the scene momentarily brought back a traumatic experience from childhood, when a farm hand in a Bohol farm asked if I had ever seen a headless chicken running around and when I said “no,” he morbidly cut off the head from a chicken destined for our luncheon meal and the poor bird did indeed run around the lawn flailing its wings until it lost a lot of blood and passed away. It was an immensely cruel thing to do, and I refused to eat chicken that lunch and for many weeks after that in protest. It is also why the phrase running around like a “headless chicken” is so vivid for me.
However, some 40 years later, I realize I am a carniovore and do kill animals because I choose to eat them. I have tried to see several types of animals slaughtered and prepared for the kitchen as a way of understanding how they are treated before I eat them. So I decided I was finally going to face my childhood chicken trauma and asked to see the chickens being slaughtered. I have far more graphic photos but they don’t add much to the description I am about to write, so I have left them out. The chicken is held by two people, and the beak and head are held firmly in one hand. A very quick slice at the neck or jugular is made and the chicken is bled. About 20-30 seconds later, it stops movement and it is set aside for a quick bath in hot water and feather plucking. It is brutal, yes, but done with what I can only describe as provincial respect and dignity. And this is not an unusual scene. I suspect millions of chickens meet the same fate in the Philippines every week.
The dressed chickens (WHY do they call them that, when in fact, it’s the opposite, we UNDRESS them don’t we?) were then placed in pot with water and aromatics and after an hour or so, there was a wonderful flavorful broth. Mung beans were added until softened, then chopped ubad or the core of a banana stalk or tree. Seasoned with salt and pepper, this was delicious. Definitely comfort food. Despite the slight discomfort that comes with knowing it includes a chicken amongst its ingredients. So does the organic chicken really make a noticeable difference? I think that it does. And I like the thought that the chickens had a relatively nice existence, running around open fields, chatting with their friends, munching on hapless worms, bugs and other natural grains and feed, until I caused them to be murdered for our soup pot…