Matzo balls were on the menu Sunday night as I whipped up a big pot of soup for my friends Jim and Sherri in Idaho Springs, Colorado. But instead of boiling a whole, cut-up chicken for stock, and having to skim weird gray frothy stuff off the top, I followed my cousin Rich’s recipe and used cartons of organic chicken broth.
“Do you guys want meat in the soup?” I didn’t eat it anymore, but was happy to make this batch more of a meal for them by adding a few skinless, boneless chicken breasts.
“Meat?” Jim asked. “You mean chicken?”
“Oh, yes, chicken,” I laughed. “It’s silly, but chicken has been just ‘meat’ for me ever since Harry was two.”
And then I told them the story from a night in March 1993.
Ken and I had plans to go out, and I wanted Harry to have dinner before the babysitter arrived. I helped him into his booster seat on a kitchen chair and set down a kids’ plastic divider plate. Each section was filled with a different food: cut-up pieces of chicken, baked potato, creamed spinach and tomatoes.
“What’s this?” Harry asked after a minute or two, pointing at his plate.
“That’s chicken.” And as soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I could have sucked them back in.
His eyes widened. “Chicken? Like chicken in a barn?”
I felt my heart race its way up to my throat. Why did I say chicken?! Harry loved to sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and Spot Goes to the Farm was one of his favorite books.
I couldn’t think of anything to save me. “Yes,” I admitted.
Harry thought for a moment, and then said, “Yummy!”
Every muscle in my body relaxed, and I smiled back at his happy face. While Harry continued to eat, I swore I would never again mention an animal at mealtime. It was all just meat – white meat here, dark meat there, E-I-E-I-O.