Monday, July 7, 2008

Chicken-Craving Heart of Darkness

When people used to tell me that chicken was their favorite kind of meat, I always inwardly rolled my eyes.  There’s nothing sexy or enigmatic about chicken.  It always seemed so boringly inoffensive to me, so conventional.  I chalked up others’ love for chicken to their predilection for blandness, their lack of gastronomic adventurousness, their underdeveloped palate.

My own first personal encounters with chicken didn’t do much to change my opinion.  Early in my meat-eating days, before my taste buds had really adjusted to the flavor of meat, I ordered a couple of unimpressive chicken Caesar salads.  Their cold strips nestled on beds of lettuce exuded only the faintest savor of meatiness.  Why, I asked myself, would anyone want to eat this Meat Lite?  I continued with my prosciutto and my boudin, convinced that chicken was a waste of my time.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my roommate took me to a sandwich stand a stone’s throw from the ivy-covered walls of the Cimetière de Montparnasse, on the rue d’Odessa side of Café de la Place.  There, we ordered poulet-avocat-tomate sandwiches from a kind-faced man named Joseph, and he set to work with ingredients arranged beautifully in baskets around him.  With a serrated knife, he thinly sliced half of a crimson plum tomato and a quarter of a ripe avocado.  He pulled some of the soft inner mie from a flour-covered pain pavé and stuffed the crust with the tomato and avocado, a big handful of arugula, some dried cranberries, and slices of moist grilled chicken breast.  After adding a slug of olive oil, he pressed the blade of his knife against the ingredients to tuck them in snugly and wrapped the loaf in white paper.

It was the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted.  I'm still thinking about it.  I wish I could eat it every day. 

Luckily for French chickens, I can’t—Café de la Place is 18 Métro stops away from my apartment and 12 from my office, which makes Joseph’s stand a weekend-only destination for me.  But my persistent desire for the sandwich disquiets me.  I was not supposed to like meat so much as to want to eat it all the time.  I particularly did not intend to fall in love with chicken, the meat of the people.  Yet here I am, constantly craving that juicy white meat with glistening brown skin against a backdrop of chewy bread, cool and creamy avocado, grassy arugula, sweet and tart cranberries.  I try to believe that the sandwich would be just as good without the chicken, but, excellent as the other ingredients may be, it’s not true:  The chicken is the very soul of the sandwich, and it is delectable.

So I extend a sincere apology to the chicken-lovers out there whom I prematurely judged:  It would seem that, at heart, I am one of you.  What remains to be seen is whether my craving for the chicken sandwich will outlive my trial period of eating meat.

1 comment:

Robert Anderson said...

It's just like Mila Jovovich said in the Fifth Element: "Cheeken....gud!"