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Smoke tales and chicken soup

November 30, 2009

Well, it’s a Monday night after the holiday and I am listening to the (not-so) lovely sound of our shop vac. See, we’re having wood stove problems. The kind that leads to a big belch of smoke that suspiciously does not make our smoke alarm go off but does irritate my eyes and dry out my throat. Should we open it up? Are we not burning it hot enough? It it getting enough air? Why does it smell like creosote? Shit.  We have a lot of conversations like this these days. We’re no strangers to operating a wood stove and we’ve never had problems before. This is very frustrating. So Hubby armed himself with brushes, the aforementioned shop vac, a fan in the window, and some gloves to show the stove who is boss. And I am sitting at the kitchen table, trying to be quiet and not comment on the nasty smell of creosote, and the roar of the vacuum, and the chill breeze from the window. I have high hopes if only because I can’t bear another night of smoke-irritated eyes. Triumph, Hubby, triumph!

Isn’t the stove pretty inside? I’ve never seen this before.

And so this feeling of irritated mucus membranes made me think of chicken soup for dinner. I’d show you a picture except that we ate it pretty fast and I didn’t think to take out the camera. It came from a whole batch of chickens that we bought from a colleague of mine at work. He raised 50 birds this fall and we bought 20 of them for the freezer. When we brought them home, it was a two-day butchering process with freezing cold fingers and more chicken parts that I particularly wanted to see. But we ended up with bags of chicken legs, chicken breasts, halved chickens, whole chickens, all stowed in our freezer; and here’s to hoping we don’t have a power outage, right?

This is part of that two-day process. Can you hear the crunch?

And worth noting is this: while I grew up vegetarian and have had a quasi-queasy relationship with eating meat in my adult life, I feel good about our freezer full of local meat. I don’t want to get all preachy here, but it matters to me that the pork and the chicken we’re eating this fall comes from animals raised by friends. I can attend a silly fundraiser cocktail party peopled by principled foodies, talking about the omega fatty acid balance in factory meat today, and not despair over the coming meal. I can read about factory farms and feedlot meat and not change my dinner plans. This is a good thing. And pairing it with veggies from our garden (Still! What is this November weather we’re having? I still have lettuce in my garden!) makes me glad, glad, glad. I love this.

And so, back to the chicken soup. We took all the spare parts, so to speak, from all those chickens we cut up and made some killer chicken soup from them. And then (I hear swearing coming from the vicinity of the woodstove. I think this is not a good sign.) we froze a bunch of it in ziplock bags. And at the end of the day today, with my back aching – this is another story – and Hubby itching to get at that woodstove, that chicken soup from the freezer tasted like manna. It’s nothing special, just carrots, celery, onions, chicken and chicken stock. But it honestly tastes better than just about anything else we’ve had in weeks. A salad of napa cabbage, cress, and tangerines, and this is heaven.

So, go make some chicken soup, preferably from a nice, fat, local chicken and see what I mean. And fear not, we’ll not burn down our house, nor poison ourselves with carbon monoxide (I’m pretty sure that the carbon monoxide detector does work, in contrast to the smoke detector, apparently). I think that Hubby is slowing down in there- this is a good sign, I’m sure.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ralph permalink
    November 30, 2009 11:07 pm

    Few, The stove's burning nicely so far!

  2. Freddie Staine permalink
    February 28, 2013 12:53 am

    Traditionally, American chicken soup was prepared using old hens too tough and stringy to be roasted or cooked for a short time. In modern times, these fowl are difficult to come by, and broiler chickens (young chickens suitable for broiling or roasting) are often used to make soup; soup hens or fowl are to be preferred when available.:

    My own webpage

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