Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The splendid chicken

Rooster and Hen with Chickens
According to an article in the June Smithsonian magazine, the now-ubiquitous chicken—a staple of most every cuisine—was first domesticated not for eating but for cockfighting and for religious rituals:
Until the advent of large-scale industrial production in the 20th century, the economic and nutritional contribution of chickens was modest. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond listed chickens among the “small domestic mammals and domestic birds and insects” that have been useful to humanity but unlike the horse or the ox did little—outside of legends—to change the course of history. Nonetheless, the chicken has inspired contributions to culture, art, cuisine, science and religion over the millennia. Chickens were, and still are, a sacred animal in some cultures. The prodigious and ever-watchful hen was a worldwide symbol of nurturance and fertility. Eggs hung in Egyptian temples to ensure a bountiful river flood. The lusty rooster (a.k.a. cock) was a universal signifier of virility—but also, in the ancient Persian faith of Zoroastrianism, a benign spirit that crowed at dawn to herald a turning point in the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.
 Like so many birds, chickens can be fantastic works of nature's art. Behold these breeds from Tamara Staples' book The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens.


This one looks like it's going to the opera!
Returning to the practical world, have you ever thought of raising chickens yourself? More and more people are doing it, and we have several books on the topic if you're interested. Or if you prefer to get your eggs and chicken parts from the grocery store, thank you very much, do browse our hand-picked selection of cookbooks for inspiration on how to snazz up your recipes.
Enhanced by Zemanta

16 comments:

  1. The first photo you have from "The Fairest Fowl" is SO FLUFFY I can hardly stand it. I never thought a chicken might be cuddly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed! Never thought I'd want a chicken as a pet until I saw that picture.

      Delete
    2. Apparently, they make most excellent pets!

      Delete
  2. I love the "opera" chicken! Who knew there could be such a pretentious and stuffy-looking member in the animal kingdom?!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a teenager, my dad brought me home two baby chickens and two baby ducks to foster for a week until we could take them a farm. I kept them in a pin in my room, and it was the cutest thing. In the morning, the ducks would get in the shower with me and the chicks would hop around the bathroom counter as I got ready, I was like barnyard cinderella!

    I would love to get chickens again, but the 10 or so semi-feral cats we keep in our garden would probably terrorize them.

    But the fluffy one and the two with spectacular headwear? Those I could be convinced to build a cat-proof coop for.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fluffy looks like she couldn't find her way across the road!
    BTW, does anyone know how the chicken got its reputation for being, well, chicken?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Here is an answer from the wisdom of Wiki: "Most birds are naturally frightened easily. After all, chicken is on the diet of just about every carnivore and omnivore. Since the chicken is not good at fighting they defend themselves by running away. Hence the term 'chicken' when applied to a frightened person."

      Delete
    2. So that would make the chicken a very sensible creature, able to realize the danger exceeds her capacity to fight, and reduce the hazard by running away. I think Patrick Jane of "The Mentalist" would be in agreement with her logic.

      Delete
  5. How beautiful and regal-looking!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'dbetterbe anonymousJune 26, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    I nominate opera chicken for the fall catalog cover! Oh, did I not get the memo?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be soooo fantastic!

      Delete
    2. I think opera chicken deserves her own tv series ... or at least a youtube channel!

      Delete
  7. Wow these are truly amazing. Who knew chickens could look so good?! I am honestly blown away by the raising chickens yourself boom. It is a great idea and very healthy, but I have enough pets to take care of (let alone no space for more!). Nice post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Eva! Space is an issue here too. Also, I'd probably have to hire someone to actually deal with the nitty gritty of the chickens (their health, etc), so the scheme becomes rather ponderous. Best seek out people who are more capable and get eggs from them. I did know a guy who had some nice breeds out in the country, and they sure were a feast for the eyes.

      Delete
  8. I just watched a video recently that has made me never want to eat chicken again but it would be really awesome to have one as a pet!

    ReplyDelete