For as long as I can remember, the decision to eat meat or not has been a conflicted one for me. My mom, the daughter of a banker/cattle farmer, is a vegetarian. She never forced us to follow suit and prepared meat dishes for us growing up. In my 20s, I was a vegetarian for a while but, honestly, it was only because I felt I should be.
At this point, I have a much greater knowledge about what it means to consume animal products from a variety of standpoints, be they environmental, nutritional or karmic. I think about it every time I eat/cook meat, eggs or dairy. While I could fairly effortlessly adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, my family isn't quite there, especially the boys. We strike an easy balance, though, since I don't get complaints when meat isn't on the menu.
So, this leads me to investing considerable energy in finding sources for truly healthful meat. The criteria we judge our purchases by are:
How was the animal raised?
Was it fed a diet which God intended it to eat?
Was it injected with hormones or antibiotics?
Was it slaughtered humanely? (the ultimate oxymoron, to be sure...)
Is it local?
For us, the CSA satisfies those questions.
I anticipated (and welcomed) the fact that our shares would push me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen. My mom taught me many wonderful things but I did not grow up seeing her do traditional Southern things like frying chicken or throwing ham hocks into every pot of beans. Gravy? Just the thought of it turns my stomach!
I definitely have a lot to learn...
So when our first delivery included two spring (whole) chickens, I was a little apprehensive. I just wasn't sure about having to take meat off the bone myself. As it turns out, I wish all of our chicken came this way. Preparing them is super easy and the waste is minimal which to me is showing respect to a creature which gave its life for the sake of my dinner. (Mom, I know -- letting it die of old-age would be more respectful.)
Yesterday, I roasted two 3-4 lb. chickens. Here's what I did and what it yielded...
2. Pulled the meat off.
3. Threw everything but the meat into a large pot with carrots, celery and whatever spices I was in the mood for. Thyme, basil, pepper, marjoram and parsley, I think. Poured in enough water to cover and simmered for an hour or so.
4. Made gravy (for the first time ever.) It's thick and yummy-looking but one taste was enough for me. :)
This work yielded eight cups of meat, four cups of super-yummy stock and two cups of gravy. Considering our portion sizes, the meat is enough for two main dishes and a big bowl of chicken salad and the stock will be used for a third (otherwise meatless) main dish.