In my childhood, precious memories were made during hunting season. My grandpa, Papa, was this amazing man whose mastery of just about anything put him on a throne in my mind. I’m sure you all have that person in your life. One family tradition that we had was processing the game that he and my uncles caught during various hunting seasons. He even had his own butcher equipment in his basement. I can recall now the sound of the saw; its only job was to remove limbs from animals. I was amazed as a small child at how easily it zipped through bones and flesh. It often was my job to push down the cubed venison portions through the meat grinder. Even though I didn’t handle the knives, I was there to witness the entire process from hanging the carcass in the garage to dividing Ziploc-filled baggies to each sibling. It was bloody, it was carnivorous, it was amazing. Keeping all this in mind, what I witnessed today was nothing short of barbaric. AND. I. LOVED. IT!
Please don’t get me wrong. I feel that there is a line to be drawn at animal cruelty, however certainly the only PETA in my life is the pita on the side of my Greek salad at La Marsa’s restaurant.
There was something so reassuring about watching my students clean and prepare the Chuchkiis that they hunted themselves to provide a meal for the group. This was not an activity in inhumanity, but in citizenship.
Please do not continue reading if:
1. You have a weak stomach
2. You are eating
3. You plan on eating anything in the next 12 hours
4. You are a bird watcher
5. You swerve to avoid hitting birds on the highway
6. A package of raw chicken breast turns your stomach
Enough of a warning? Ok.
First, the students laid out all the birds that they had caught. 16 is a great number, considering the hunters were fidgeting pre and current teens. No ipod/TV/internet for an hour is tough to handle.
One of the elders of the island, Mary B., volunteered to show the students how to clean and prepare the Chuckiis for cooking. This included de-legging, de-winging, skinning, and removing “innards” of each bird.
After all the appendages have been removed, it’s important to dunk the bird into water. This keeps the feathers from going all over the place. In my sick, twisted minds, it’s as if they’re having flashbacks to their former life and trying to reincarnate themselves back into birds. Almost like phantom pains of a lost limb. Zombie feathers. See. Sick. Twisted.
After the skins are removed, feathers and all, the carcasses are then put in a pile until ready for the final chapter.
The kids were good sports and actually really got into the process. I’m not sure how much they related to their ancestors throughout the hunting and preparation of the Chuckiis, but I am quite confident that some day they’ll look back on this day and be proud of what they did, as I do when I recall the memories of my weekends in Papa’s basement, surrounding by my family and our own traditions.