Kids, Food, & How to Kill a Chicken, Improvised.

Poultry chart via etsy

My kids, overall, are good eaters. I won’t go into my philosophy in detail just that I take a French-mother/Man Who Ate Everything approach to feeding them. It seems to be working for us –despite the occasional protests.

One thing I have always tried to do is make sure my girls know where their food comes from. I do not want to find myself, burger in hand, facing my kid around 12 suddenly stricken with a look of horror saying:

Wait you mean burgers and cows are the same thing? So what was the animal we ate last night?

Me: Well we had venison so you could say we ate Bambi, well probably her mother.

Living in Thailand has made this pretty easy. Granted, we have not passed Daisy the cow on our way to ballet class, but we have waved hello to many other edible friends. I knew I was succeeding  with my mission when upon seeing new animals, SweetPea would point to the creature going by and ask first:

What is that

followed closely with

Can we eat it?

Both girls love chicken but for SweetPea, it’s an obsession. She will choose chicken over any other food including sweets and cake any day so chicken features pretty regularly on our menu.

While eating chicken for dinner the other night:

P: Maman why can’t I see the chicken’s blood?
Me: Well they remove it before they sell us the chicken.
P: How do they remove it?
Me: They cut the chicken’s head off and hang him upside down.
(At this point I know that chickens get heads cut off and pigs are bled so I am just trying to piece this together)
P: Like this? (Showing me with her dragon piggy bank conveniently located next to her).
I nod in agreement.
P: Maman can I please do that next time we have chicken for dinner? And how do we catch a chicken?
Me, quiet worrying about a Dexter in our house.
P: And I want the chicken blood.
Me, thinking it is time to redirect this conversation: Well how about some boudin noir which is blood sausage?

Close call.

The next day, I worried as we head out of the house. There’s been a trio of scrawny birds hanging out by the front of our mobaan –a cluster of houses, like a little village. I didn’t want SweetPea getting any ideas. Fortunately the chickens were so scrawny. They were like the Kate Moss of chickens: breast-less, always in black, and in need a good meal and long night of sleep. I figured she wouldn’t find them appetizing enough to want to make the kill.

Right, I must brush up on my art of butchering skills. Til the next time readers.

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Fast Food Showdown: A Singaporean Reflection

When we started looking into moving to Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore, we were lucky enough to have friends of friends we could talk to about what to expect. My approach to mining these valuable resources made mountaintop removal look gentle. I will be forever grateful for the long email exchanges and Skype phone calls various folks endured, where conversations were more akin to military interrogations.

Towards the end of one of our marathon calls, I was really surprised by something a mama friend told me. She said that if given the choice between a Saturday treat of McDonald’s or chicken rice—a Singaporean staple from the hawker stands, their version of fast food that is NOTHING like fast food as we know it—the kids would choose chicken rice every time. I had trouble believing this on a number of levels.

This post was written for A is for Manzana, my blog on In Culture Parent. To continue reading please click here.

Smacking the Dough to Perfection: A Culinary Digression.

It’s not that I am lazy, though I haven’t ruled that out entirely. And I really don’t like rushing things (Go Slow!) but I also don’t like spending more time than is necessary especially with two young banshees running around the place. I also have an extreme aversion to most things pre-made and pre-packaged, especially when they are simple to make.

With that, I am going to share my mother’s secret pastry recipe. While her mother and siblings all started buying pre-made ‘pate a tarte’ my mother who had much more on her plate (i.e. working full-time, keeping house with no help and bringing up three kids) would never compromise on quality and taste. Here is one of her many wonderful ‘shortcuts’:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 125 grams of butter
  • 250 grams of flour
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Splash of milk as needed

UTENSILS

  • A saucepan
  • A wooden spoon
  • A quiche dish
  • Your hands
Have all your ingredients ready and at your side. There is no time to go hunting for anything.
  1. Melt the butter in the saucepan under low heat. Cut into even pieces to speed up melting. 
  2. When melted, remove from heat.
  3. Mix in the flour & salt with wooden spoon. You really want to have your milk ready and open by your side here.
  4. THE TRICKY PART: As the flour starts to absorb the butter, you add a splash of milk. It needs to be enough to bring it all together without it being too wet. Better to put too little to start and add a second splash then too much. I needed to add a wee bit more milk as was a tad too crumbly. You want to handle the dough as little as possible so don’t spend too long on this; the whole process should take less than a minute.
  5. Et Voila! you have your ball of dough. Quickly slap it down into the middle of the quiche/tarte dish. That’s right NO ROLLING PINS! Now you get why I love this recipe.
  6. Time to get your frustrations out. Smack the dough out working from the center towards the edge and turning your dish slowly a round so you work it out gradually. 
  7. Set your OCD aside. Do not worry if you spread it too thin and it splits. You can just pull a little from the edge and patch the hole. If you don’t manage to get enough dough on all the borders you can just shift bits from one edge to the other. All imperfections will be hidden. I promise. 
  8. Final step is optional: decorative fork markings around the edge.
Now you have your pastry ready for whatever filling you want. You can make it ahead of time and just keep it in the fridge. I am partial to savory foods so I mostly make quiches with the odd tart tarte. You can sweeten the dough by adding sugar to the flour but you will have to play around with quantities since I never do. I am guessing a couple of tablespoons would suffice. (Or une cuillere a soup for any frenchies reading)
As with everything, practice makes perfect. This one was a little rougher around the edges – literally- as making and photographing the pastry simultaneously was more challenging than I’d expected. That said, the results were divine. 
Bon Appetit!