IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW HOW TO CUT UP A CHICKEN

Our generation has lost so many important talents and skills. Technology makes it easier for us, but in some ways, it takes away our independence. Maybe that’s one reason we love to read (and write!) historical romance. We can go back in time vicariously without having to live through all the hardships and trials of everyday life, experiencing only the top layer of what must have been difficult, by our standards, every moment. 

Does anyone know how to cut up a chicken anymore? My mother did. I remember her getting out the wickedest looking knife I’d ever seen every Sunday and cutting up a chicken to fry. They had started to sell cut-up chickens in the store, but they were more expensive. Mom wouldn’t have dreamed of paying extra for that. By the time I began to cook for my family, I didn’t mind paying that extra money—I couldn’t bear to think of cutting a chicken up and then frying it. 

It’s all relative. My mom, born in 1922, grew up in a time when the chickens had to be beheaded, then plucked, then cut up—so skipping those first two steps seemed like a luxury, I’m sure. I wouldn’t know how to begin to cut up a chicken. I never learned how. 

Hog killing day was another festive occasion. Because my husband was raised on a farm, he and my mother had a lot of similar experiences to compare (this endeared him to her in later years.) Neighbors and family would gather early in the day. The hog would be butchered, and the rest of the day would be spent cutting and packing the meat. When my husband used to talk about the “wonderful sausage” his mother made, I was quite content to say, “Good for her. I’m glad you got to eat that when you were young.” (There’s no way I would ever make sausage.) 

Medical issues? I was the world’s most nervous mother when I had my daughter. But being the youngest in the family, I had a world of experience to draw on. I also had a telephone and I knew how to use it! I called my mom or one of my sisters about the smallest thing. I can’t imagine living in one of the historical scenarios that, as writers, we create with those issues. The uncertainty of having a sick child and being unable to do anything to help cure him/her would have made me lose it. I know this happened so often and was just accepted as part of life, but to me, that would have been the very worst part of living in a historical time. I had a great aunt who lost all three of her children within one week to the flu. She lost her mind and had to be institutionalized off and on the rest of her life. 

 My mother was the eldest of eleven children. She often said with great pride that her mother had had eleven children and none of them had died in childhood. I didn’t realize, when I was younger, how important and odd that really was for those times. My father’s mother had five children, two of whom died as children, and two more that almost died, my father being one of them. 

It was a case of my grandmother thinking he was with my granddad, and him thinking three-year-old Freddie was with her. By the time they realized he was missing, the worst had happened. He had wandered to the pond and fallen in. It was a cold early spring day. Granddad had planted the fields already, between the pond and the house. A little knit cap that belonged to little Freddie was the only evidence of where he’d gone. It was floating on top of the water. By some miracle, my granddad found him and pulled him up out of the water. He was not breathing. Granddad ran with him back to the house, jumping the rows of vegetables he’d planted. The doctor later told him that was probably what saved Dad’s life—a very crude form of CPR. 

Could you have survived in the old west? What do you think would have been your greatest worry? What would you hate to give up the most from our modern way of life? I’m curious to know, what skills or talents to you think we have lost generationally over the last 100 years? I’ve written two time travel stories where the heroine found herself living in the old west, 1800s Indian Territory. They both faced issues that were daunting, simply because of the time period…would they stay if given a choice, or go back to their present-day living? Does love REALLY ‘conquer all’?  In my time travel novel, TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, the heroine must go back in time, but in the sequel, I’m turning the tables. The hero of that book is going to go forward. Once he gets there, will he ever want to go BACK to his time?

 I’m not sure I would have lived very long, or very pleasantly. I know one thing—my family would never have eaten sausage, unless they had breakfast at the neighbor’s house.

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from my time travel short story, MEANT TO BE, available in the 2011 Christmas Collection from Victory Tales Press.

BLURB:

Robin Mallory is facing another Christmas all alone when she decides to surprise her aunt and uncle several hours away. She becomes stranded near a desolate section of interstate. With a snowstorm on the way, Robin has no choice but to walk, looking for a house to provide shelter.

Jake Devlin is shocked when the “spy” he jumps turns out to be a girl. She’s dressed oddly, and talks like a Yank. Where did she come from, and what is he going to do with her?

The set up: Jake, a Confederate soldier, has been seriously wounded by a Cheyenne arrow as he tries to protect Robin from the attack. His only hope is for her to be able to go back through the “portal” in the woods to her old truck, parked along the interstate, and get the medicine from another time that he so badly needs. With Cheyenne in the woods along with a platoon of Yankee soldiers, what chance will she have of survival? Can she even find the rift in time again…twice?

EXCERPT:

Robin turned her back on the pickup and started down the gravel road. Doubt assailed her. Was she crazy to go back to a time she didn’t belong in?

But she did belong. She’d been…alive. More so in that time than here, in her own. And could she possibly hope for a future with Jake? It was too soon for commitments…but wasn’t she making the biggest one of all?

Her steps slowed. If she took the medicine back to him, what guarantee was there that, should she want to come back to her time, she’d be able? She may be stuck in Indian Territory of 1864 with no way back, ever.

She couldn’t let Jake die. How could she live with herself in either time if that happened?

What if she was misreading his intentions? He seemed—interested—in her. Her heart shrank at the thought of another rejection. She wouldn’t be able to handle that. But…that fear might also be keeping her from letting herself fall in love with the kindest, most decent man she’d ever met—in any time. Trusting was so hard.

Yet, he’d trusted her, hadn’t he, with much more to lose than she had. He could very well die if she didn’t take the antibiotics back to him.

And…another thought, too awful to bear, rose up, refusing to be ignored. What if he died in spite of the antibiotics? She might be trapped in a time that wasn’t hers, without the man she’d fallen in love with.

Oh, dear God. She stopped walking as the reality hit her full force. She was in love with Jake already. How could this have happened? The damn magical doorway through time had to have some other influence. There was no other explanation. But…it felt real. And if she lost Jake, the heartache would be very real, she already knew. She’d sworn, after her last romantic fiasco, that she wouldn’t jump into anything again. Yet, here she was, in love with Jake Devlin after only twenty-four hours. And worried sick. She began to run. What if she couldn’t get back through the portal? What if the medicine doesn’t work?

What if Jake doesn’t love me? Her mind seized on the question, mocking her, taunting her, throwing it back to her again and again.

He loves me, her heart answered, remembering the way he’d reached to pull the blanket over her, and the gentle touch of his hand on her cheek in the night when he thought she was asleep.

Remember, her heart reminded her, as she thought of the way he’d put himself between her and their attackers. He would have died for her. He still might.

She stopped running, trying to catch her breath. Her side hurt, and she noticed the sky seemed to be darkening more than normal, which probably meant they were in for more snow.

Nothing else had changed, though. Panic gripped her. The road remained graveled and wide, never narrowing in the least as it had before. The trees weren’t nearly as thick as they had been a scant half-hour earlier when she’d come this way.

With her heart pounding from fear as much as exertion, Robin looked behind her. She could still barely see the top of the rise that hid her truck. Maybe she hadn’t come quite far enough! She couldn’t remember. It had all been so gradual before. But now, everything looked the same, unchanged. She held her breath listening for the far-away sounds of the interstate traffic. She couldn’t hear anything, but maybe it was just because there weren’t many cars. It was Christmas Eve. Everyone would most likely be at their destinations by now, so late in the afternoon, the day before Christmas.

“Oh, please,” she whispered, starting down the road again. “Please.”

The wind whipped up, and the first flakes of snow began to fall. She was so close—so close to getting the medicine back to Jake—how could everything go so completely wrong? She fought back angry tears of frustration, her throat raw from the cold. It would never do for her to really get sick now—now that Jake was in such need of her medication.

She lifted her chin determinedly. She was going to get it to him. Somehow, someway. And she prayed it would be strong enough to heal him. Christmas was a time for miracles. She needed one right now. 

The 2011 Christmas Collection anthology containing MEANT TO BE, my novel TIME PLAINS DRIFTER,  and all my other work can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson  or at Barnes and Noble.

 

 

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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27 Comments

  1. Great post! I love reading time travel so will have to look for yours. Yes we have lost a lot over the years. I do know how to cut up a chicken though. My mother use to buy them whole and we would cut them up and fry them. I will admit its been years since I cut up a chicken but I still remember how. You just make you cuts at the joints.

  2. It is so easy to take all of the comforts that we have nowdays for granted. I too remember my grandmother telling me how she caught–beheaded–cutup and then fried a chicken every Sunday for the family. I was horrified by the thought, but I am so glad that she shared this and other stories of growning up in the early 1900’s with me. I pass them on to my girls…and I hope that they are passed down to their children. I think that the comfort that I would miss the most living back in the ‘west’ would definately have to be a bathroom. Not having running water, and having to use an outhouse would probably be my undoing! Thanks for the post Cheryl, and I am looking forward to reading your Time Plains Drifter book, it sounds very interesting! 🙂

  3. Good morning. Love this post1 I know how to cut up a chicken, butcher a hog or a steer, and make sausage, I did not grow up doing those things but my husbands family did it and so I learned. Never got as good as they were but I could get it done.

    When my daughter was in college sand living in her first apartment she called me and asked, “Mom, how do you cut up a chicken?” Try ing to tell someone how to do something like that is much harder than showing them. We got yhe job done and then I told her that I thought that she had paid better attention when she was younger. I sent her the picture of her at three carrying a beheaded, naked chicken to the house. It’s feet were dragging on th ground and the neck was bobbing in front of her face and she was looking at it crosseyed! So cute.
    I know that I would have missed the medical care!!

  4. Hot water… and all it’s uses… daily bathing.. What goes around comes around.. google “how often to wash your hair” and you’ll find out that women rarely washed their hair.. they brushed out the dirt and washed the brushes.. Love these kinds of blogs.. I always wondered why that 1950’s personal care book for girls talked about washing hair brushes weekly.. Iknow how to cut up a chicken.. and will eat sausage..but not make it…

  5. Hi Cheryl,

    I highly recommend TIME PLAINS DRIFTER to anyone whether you normally enjoy time travel stories, or not, you’ll enjoy this one!

    I think we’ve lost the ability to just enjoy all the “small” things in life. To find peace and contentment with what we have instead of moving on to bigger and better.

    Of everything, I would miss the ability to travel and stay in touch with friends and family. I can’t imagine moving across the country and knowing when I said goodbye to my family that was most likely the last time I would ever see them, or speak to them.

    –Kirsten

  6. I remember my Grandma beheading chickens and plucking the feathers off, Cheryl. And I remember hearing the pigs squeal when my Grandpa butchered them–I was little than and it was just the way things were. Now I don’t think I could stand to eat an animal I knew when it was alive. I’ll head to the supermark and buy my meat in nice cut-up packages, thank you.
    Amen to Kirsten’s comment above. The best thing about modern times is being able to stay in touch with loved ones.
    Wonderful excerpt. My heart was right there with Robin. Don’t you love time travel?

  7. Hi Quilt Lady,
    I do remember that much–I remember my mom standing in the kitchen feeling for the joint, then putting the knife there. Man, that was a sharp knife. LOL
    Cheryl

  8. Tammy,
    YES! The outhouse would have been mine, too. I remember going to visit my granddad’s brother and his wife on many occasions and they still had an outhouse (this was in the 60’s!) Well, of course, Mom and Uncle Johnny and Aunt Myrtle all got the biggest kick over me being afraid to go to the outhouse. THERE WERE WASPS OUT THERE! LOL My gosh, that was awful. I think I’m with you on that–the outhouse was definitely the worst. LOL
    Cheryl

  9. Connie,
    Love this story about your daughter and the picture you have of her carrying that chicken. You know, my husband always had to be the one to catch, behead, etc. when he was growing up because he was the oldest. To this day he will not eat chicken. He says the smell of chicken cooking reminds him of having to pluck it after it soaked in warm water. One day we had taken the dog to the vet, and when we came into the lobby there, the vet was talking to another customer about that very thing. He was saying how he’d been the one in their family to do all that and could not stand the smell or taste of chicken even now. So I guess it must have been common, turning the first born son against eating chicken forevermore. LOL So cool that you learned how to do those things. My husband’s family did all that when he was growing up, but that was way before my time in the family.
    Cheryl

  10. Cate,
    How well I remember growing up and having to “wash out our brushes” every Saturday! And even then, we didn’t wash our hair but maybe twice a week. UGH! I don’t know how we stood it, but I remember in the 70’s there was a company that invented a powder you could put in your hair (up to that point, people used baby powder), and you just shook it in and brushed it through your hair to make it look “clean”…ICK. Grosses me out to think of it even now. LOL Yes, I definitely would miss hot water–I can’t imagine having to heat water for baths for everyone, or else being forced to use someone else’s bathwater on a regular basis.
    Cheryl

  11. Kirsten,
    THANK YOU for your very kind words about TIME PLAINS DRIFTER! I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much.

    I think you are right about missing the small things. When I think of, how in the Little House books, Charles playing his fiddle in the evenings was such an entertaiment for everyone, and the family times of just sitting on the front porch in the evenings together (with no tv!) or the community coming together for “socials” were all so important. And letter writing? It’s a lost art! I used to love to write letters when I was growing up, and remember how Mom always checked the mail every day, hoping for a letter from her mother or one of her sisters. I think she must have kept every one of them, too. And it seems like, in today’s world, it’s hard to even think of recreating any of those things and recapturing the family time, or those lazy moments of relaxation–even making time to just sit down and read a book is hard with the pace we keep in today’s world.
    Cheryl

  12. Wonderful post Cheryl.. I know how to cut up a chicken… I watch all those cooking shows. But I must admit taking the easy way out and buying the all ready cut chicken parts… I worked for the Ontario Pork Board for a number of years, and the first time I had to go to a processing plant was not my finest day.. Have a week stomach and I won’t describe what I saw. But remember coming home, stipping my clothes off and throwing everyhting I wore into the washing machine, and showeing until I got that smell of “death” from my person…
    Was never reapeted again…

  13. Hi Elizabeth,
    My husband told me about a big pig that they had when he was growing up. His name was “FARM KING” and when they butchered him, none of the kids would eat the meat. I’m like you, I will go to the grocery store and buy it. LOL I agree with you and Kirsten that being able to stay in touch in our present day is sure one of the very best things! Heck, I remember “back in the day” when it was highway robbery to make a phone call long distance during the daytime hours. LOL That was bad enough, but to leave and never be able to see your family again? I have a copy of a letter that was written by one of my great great great aunts when her mother died, telling her sister that their mother had passed away. She described her death in great detail, and what they buried her in, etc. I can’t imagine having to write such a letter! And of course, the news didn’t reach her sister for several weeks after it happened. Thank you for your compliment on MEANT TO BE. I do love time travel so much! I really enjoy writing it.
    Cheryl

  14. Oooooohhhh, Kathleen! I just shudder to think. I don’t even want to know what goes into weiners. LOL You sound like most of us about wanting to just buy the chicken “already cut.” It’s odd to think of cutting up a chicken as a “dying art”, but when you think of it, probably within the next 50 years, no one will remember how it’s done.
    Thanks for coming by, Kathleen!
    Cheryl

  15. I’ve never beheaded a chicken, but I’ve watched it done and I’ve been involved from that point on. Scalding them, plucking the feathers, gutting them, cutting them up.
    I loathed it but I did it anyway. 🙂
    I watched my mom do it many times but my mil is who taught me to do it.
    There’s a little green …. thing… a sac or gland or whatever inside a chicken, when you’re gutting it, that MUST NOT BE BROKEN. If it is, the contents are very bitter and will spoil anything it touches to the extent my mil threw it away, whatever got touched. So she showed me how to be careful of that.

    My mother in law used to say she’d start with three live chickens at ten am and have fried chicken for the noon meal…which she called dinner btw, not lunch.
    And she was brilliant at it, fast as lightning. My mother in law is who really taught me that ANYTHING can be done well or poorly. It’s one of my fundamental beliefs that no job is too lowly for a person to strive for excellence. If you’re a waitress, you be the best waitress in that restaurant. If you’re packing groceries, you pack those groceries faster, more neatly and with more good grace than any grocery packer who ever lived.
    And a chicken can be prepared with lightning speed, no wasted motion and a great attitude and humor or it can be drudgery. Working with Marybelle, my mil, was such a lesson. I learned more just trying to keep up with her and her arthritic fingers than I ever would have with extensive schooling on the subject.
    Except, of course, schooling was exactly what it was.
    And my mother in law always said chicken was the best because before refrigeration, it would keep….because it was running around alive. Not to mention the eggs!
    What are you going to do with a whole pig? No freezer?
    So chickens were this perfect, fresh, easy food.

    snort

    easy!

    Yes, I can cut up a chicken. No problem…but usually, these days…I buy those frozen chicken breasts. Or get a whole chicken only to roast or maybe to boil for soup. But I do neither of those very often. Too much work. I also love canned chicken and canned chicken broth.

    My sister and her husband’s family used to have a ‘butchering day’ every year and every one of the six adult children would come home and, there at the farm, they’d kill and butcher enough cows and pigs for fill the whole families freezers for the year. I think everyone got a whole pig and a half or a quarter of a cow.

  16. You should’ve seen my mil pit cherries or peel apples. It was truly awesome and humbling. I’m not kidding even a little bit.

  17. Oh, and we always picture a chicken getting it’s head cut off with an axe, right? Usually a Pilgrim and a turkey, right?

    My mom used a corn knife…also called a machete.
    My mother in law used a stick.
    She’d have like four chickens in her hands, hanging by their legs. (we…once a year…had a chicken cleaning day and she’d do like…fifty chickens in one day to freeze for the year.)
    She’d grab three or four. But all but one in one hand, hanging down, sometimes they’d flop and squawk in the most ALARMING manner, but of course we didn’t let that stop us. I’d gather them up and bring them to her so she never ran out of them.
    She’d take one chicken in one hand, while the others hung in the other hand. With a stick by her feet, she’d swing the chicken so it sort of stretched out, flip it down on the ground, head first, with her feet, she’d kick that stick so it went across the chicken’s neck, then step on the stick with both feet, one foot on either side of the chicken’s neck so the neck was pressed hard on the ground, then she’d JERK. Just rip it’s head off. And with that jerk she’d throw the chicken away from her, switch another chicken to her free hand and again, flip the chicken, trap it’s neck, JERK.
    Over and over. I swear you could’ve set it to music and it was INSTANT for the chicken. But they’d flop around for a while. So headless chickens would be rolling and flying around all over while their little heads piled up at Marybelle’s feet.
    It was horrible but let’s face it folks, this is where food comes from.
    My aunt had an even better method. She’d just step on the chicken’s head and jerk.
    SAVAGE.

  18. OH. MY. GOSH. MARY, I am sitting here laughing at this MOST informative post of yours until the tears are streaming down my face. The picture you have created here…amazing. That had to be truly something to behold. Have you put this in one of your books? If not, YOU NEED TO!That seems like the best thing to do–pick a day and just do a bunch of them at once and get it over with. What a lesson you had in that! Promise me you will write about this on one of your books. It’s too good to not use.
    Cheryl

  19. Hi Cheryl – I know how to cut up a chicken, BUT I draw the line at having them butchered for me. My father would tell tales of being sent to the “store”, where dead chickens were hanging up by the dozens and he would pick one out. I think at that point, I’d become a vegetarian!! But back in the day when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a cut-up chicken. My mom taught me how to break it up. My dad could do with just his hands! 🙂

  20. Oh, Char! I didn’t know it could be done with just the hands, but thinking about it, I can imagine how a man would be able to. Yes, I’m like you. I’d become a vegetarian if I had to pick out a dead chicken. LOL
    Cheryl

  21. “Could you have survived in the old west? What do you think would have been your greatest worry?”

    Bwahahahaha! I’d probably be the prissy Eastern girl who faints at everything. I love my indoor plumbing, washing machine & microwave, lol. And I really hate bugs.

  22. Ann, you crack me up! Can you imagine your husband coming home one day and saying, “Guess what? I’ve decided to move our family out to Indian Territory. There’s free land there, and it’ll be good for the kids to be raised in the wide open spaces. Let’s pack!” LOL
    Cheryl

  23. I too loved the post,,Ive actually plucked a chicken an cut it up,,my uncle ran a dairy farm an he ment to teach my sister an I some country living,,,milked a cow too,but refused to drink that milk,,,I may say we never went back for another 2 wk visit again,,so I could live that way if I had too,but thank God I dont!!!I like my modern conviences soo,soo much

  24. Thank you, Vickie! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Oh, I don’t blame you about drinking the milk. As I’ve gotten older, I try not to think about where things come from. LOL I love my modern conveniences too, and don’t think I would ever want to go back in time to actually live like our pioneer ancestors did.
    Cheryl

  25. Thank you for the interesting post and the excerpt.

    We have thought about survival and discussed it around the dinner table. We could probably survive pretty well if we had to. I won’t say I wouldn’t miss the modern conveniences, I have done without them before, but I could live without them if I had to. The medical advances and common medicines we take for granted are what I would miss the most.

    We raised chickens and had mass butchering days. I hated it, but would and could do it if I had to. I used to buy whole chickens and cut them up myself. It isn’t very hard, but I haven’t done it for years. I do canning, drying, and put up things in a root cellar. As a family, we can deal with just about anything. My son and husband can build structures, make furniture, and they are both blacksmiths. We have a big garden that could be expanded and hunt and fish. I sew and we have dabbled with soap making, candle making and even making ink and quill pens. We have animals and room to expand what we have to a working mini-farm if we had to. I have milked cows and made butter. Making our own bread and other food items would be no problem.

    I look at so many young adults and it is rather sad that they truly have no idea how to fix food on their own. If it isn’t in a can and they can’t use a microwave or ready to eat out of the bag or box, forget it. They have no idea what plants they can use for food or medicine. Without electricity they would be lost. It is a shame they are missing so much. Without all the light pollution, they would discover just how beautiful the night sky is.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  26. Wow Patricia!
    That is so cool that your family can do so many things–just a little of everything. I agree with you–so many young adults can do nothing “from scratch”–our world doesn’t allow for it anymore, so it’s not all their fault, really, it’s a matter of having no time to learn and devote to knowing these things. My son did learn to make a guitar by hand from one of the premiere luthiers in our area, Carroll Cox, but sadly,Mr. Cox passed away only about a year after Casey had started working with him. There are so many things that could be learned if there were only time in this modern world of ours. I liked your comment, “Without all the light pollution, they would discover just how beautiful the night sky is.” I remember how, as a child, we’d go out and put down some old packing quilts in the back yard and just look at the stars and drink tea or lemonade and spend family time together.I’m glad you enjoyed the post–you always have some thought provoking comments of your own!
    Cheryl

  27. Funny you should mention putting out quilts to watch the night sky. We did too. I remember watching an total eclipse one night. It was rather creepy and awesome. Everything turned sort of red. No wonder ancient peoples took events like that as signs from the gods or spirits.

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