On Rotisserie Chicken

Three Chickens

Three Chickens

As a vegetarian household, we have never had a rotisserie chicken within our walls. In fact, if we brought home chicken of any kind, I can’t remember it. As an omnivore, my chicken eating takes place elsewhere, and even so, I recall eating exactly zero rotisserie chickens in my lifetime, although I made soup out of the carcass of one a single time in Colorado.

Rotisserie chickens are so not us.

Yet I see them everywhere. In arguably the most liberal county in Iowa—the only county that did not vote for the Branstad-Reynolds ticket last year—one would think this cultural phenomenon would have long ago surrendered to home-grown poultry, self-cooked. It persists.

I posted this on Facebook over the weekend:

I see all these people toting around rotisserie chickens and wonder what they do with them. Not just a few. A lot. Do they tear off the legs and eat them first like a poor man’s version of King Henry VIII? Do they cut them up with a knife to make another dish? Will the carcass become soup or stock? Do they extract the breast and throw the rest away? Do they eat them in the car and throw the bones out the window? I don’t know, but I do see a lot of these chickens when I’m out in society. I had thought with Ron Popeil’s device no one would ever buy a rotisserie chicken again. The answer is probably simple, but I don’t get it.

The Facebook friends who responded confirmed my beliefs about what people do with these cooked birds with surprising uniformity. A couple talked about the economics of chickenry, but that is really not at issue. Chicken is and has been a poor person’s protein, and for those leaning vegetarian, not a choice at all. Why kill the chicken that lays the eggs for ovo-lacto vegetarians?

What I wondered most, and was confirmed, was that people make soup and stock of the rotisserie remains—at least they said as much. Soup is life more than bread is the staff of life. Although the anti-gluten craze has reduced bread eaters to secretly coveting and eating their loaves, or making ersatz bread from barley and rice flours, it is fitting that bread and soup go together to make a meal. Chicken soup is tasty and satisfying to most omnivores.

So what’s my point?

Don’t you ever wonder what goes on behind external appearances? One sees the device that cooks the chicken and the warming display case. One sees people choosing and toting rotisserie chickens into the parking lot. There are testimonies about what people do with chickens, recipes and more. In the end, though, rotisserie chicken is not about chickens. It is about life.

Finding meaning in society is challenging and some find it in carrying a rotisserie chicken home. It is easy to make something of what everyone can observe. What is hard is to understand the motivation for life in society in its many manifestations. In the end the motivations and designs people have are more important than any chickeny artifacts.

Rotisserie chickens help us see into a deep well of life in society and forgo the question of the chicken or the egg. A better question is what shall we do with our lives today?

And that’s the meaning of this post about rotisserie chickens.

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