We had a great time last night at the showing of Mad City Chickens arranged by Bob Banner of Edible SLO and Hope Dance, http://www.ediblecommunities.com/sanluisobispo/. I appear in the film, so Bob invited me to speak to the assembled group and answer questions.
They were a terrific audience, enthusiastic and involved. Not all have chickens yet, but those who don't are thinking more seriously about getting some after seeing the film. Those who already have chickens were helpful in volunteering their experiences. I especially appreciated the woman who told about her grandmother's recipe for chicken pie, that begins "Take a two-year-old chicken..." Chickens today are considered too old and tough to eat if they get any older than six or seven weeks, the age at which Cornish-Rock crosses, the industrial meat breed, are sent to slaughter.
That's unrealistic for any traditional breed, which grow much more slowly. They also develop flavor as they grow. Chickens used to be taken from the flock for the table at a variety of ages: young ones were the friend chicken of summer, older ones the roast chicken of fall. Older birds were cooked longer in moist heat for chicken pies, fricassees, soups and other delicious meals.
Roosters were often caponized, neutered much as steers are, to grow larger as roasters for large families and celebrations. Capons are still available, but many cooks are no longer familiar with them. I'm exploring the possibilities of having cooking classes and writing about cooking less familiar poultry, from capons to duck and goose.
Mad City Chickens will be shown again in Santa Barbara Tuesday, August 25, 7pm at the Santa Barbara Public Library / Faulkner Gallery on Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara. I'll attend that showing, too. If you are in the area, join us.