The Cheeseburger Manifesto has opened widely the doors to a fabulous rediscovery: the power of the chicken. Before last month, I last voluntarily ate meat on 19 February 1995, my nineteenth birthday. Then on a dark and stormy night at the ice rink in June, I walked up to Steers and ordered that great meat-eating manifesto: a cheeseburger. It felt like asking a pharmacist for condoms. I softly muttered ‘shzbuhrer, pliz’ at the perplexed cashier. ‘Sorry?’ she replied loudly, ‘A cheeseburger?’
I can honestly say that regular burgers at Steers are not as tasty as their vegetarian equivalents, and have not offered a realistic addition to my diet. However, the Cheeseburger Manifesto did open widely the doors to a fabulous rediscovery: the power of the chicken. For those of you who’ve been roasting these little powder-kegs since you can remember, I need to point out that it is actually very odd that these poorly evolved, funny-looking, sometimes quite stinky little birds can make a regular guy like me feel like a healthy specimen of quite marvellous proportions.
Now I’ve done some reading about little Gallus gallus domesticus, the domestic chicken. Did you know there are about 24 billion of them in the world? I was pleased to hear that, since I’ve single-handedly eaten about five of them very recently. I’m sure the grief of one mother chicken is no less than the grief of many, but 24 billion? That kind of statistic eats at your moral fibre pretty quickly.
I was also intrigued to know that Gallus gallus domesticus is probably descended from the glamorous Red Junglefowl. Chickens are the sheltered, unkempt sons and daughters of the avian Tarzan. Being a chicken is like being a child of The Flaming Jungleman, a brave and gaudy superhero I have invented, who lives in the woods and can muster flocks of chickens at a moment’s notice.
My mother recently bought me a rubber chicken, who now lives in my car and goes by the name Stretch, as many rubber chickens do. Were he a real chicken, as he no doubt wishes he could be, he would be a proud companion. Sometimes I can hear, beneath the murmur of the engine, the faint cluck of a chicken becoming so much more than a chicken. But that could also be my tummy.