[livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes attempts to make chicken stock:

"Putting it v, v charitably. I tried to make REAL chicken stock once in our first apt here from the leftover carcass of a (boughten) roast chicken, bones fat scraps and all. It looked like Hannibal Lecter's apprentice had been carefully preparing for a life of extremely unappetizing crime in our kitchen, practicing on pullets while Working His Way Up. I wound up with this horrible watery-yet-gluey mess with a visible inch-thick scum of frothing fat on top with horrible bobbing mangled things occasionally poking through it only to be drowned again in the percolating ooze. The cats hid from the smell. (The landlady upstairs said "What is that?" I said maybe her cat had left a dead bird in the hedge, or something.) T wanted to decontaminate the pot by leaving it in the back yard to get rained in. You remember when Meg's jelly won't jel in Little Women? It was like that, only extremely gross."

This reminds me of the biology class assignment I got in tenth grade, which was to boil a whole chicken, until the flesh fell off the bones, then dry the bones and reconstruct the skeleton. We were given a month and a diagram of a chicken skeleton to do this. I put it off till the night before because I was so terrified of the assignment, then made shamefacedly confessed and made my Dad drive me to the grocery store to buy a whole chicken.

Several hours of boiling (the chicken), yelling (Dad's), and weeping (mine) later, the meat was not off some bones, while others had turned to jelly or even dissolved. Dad, having refused to go to bed and leave me alone with the chicken, suggested that I put the bones in the oven to try to dry them out. Several hours later, we had a pile of bones that were more-or-less dry enough to glue together. That was when we discovered that the bones did not match the anatomy diagram. It was like a jigsaw puzzle... FROM HELL.

By 3:00 am, we were pretty much randomly gluing bones that looked sort of right to other bones that were sort of in the right place. Eventually we achieved a chicken-like object, although there was still a pile of bones that we didn't know what the hell they were or where they should have gone, and went to bed.

The next morning we awoke to see the Frankenchicken lurking there atop the tabletop, lopsided, mutant, malevolent. I burst into tears and said I wouldn't turn it in at all, because I'd done such a bad job and I was embarassed to be seen with it. Dad, who is a very wise man in some ways, said that on the contrary, he had no doubt that everyone else also left it to the night before and probably gave up well before we did. Not only did he drag me and the Frankenchicken to school, he accompanied me into the classroom because he was so curious to see what the rest of the kids had come up with.

Some kids had their very own Frankenchickens, which much like ours were lopsided, wet, smelly, only vaguely chicken-like, and sometimes with extra vestigial limbs. Some kids had partial chickens. A few despondent folk carried plastic bags of bones, with maybe a leg or a wing glued together. One boy had taken all the bones and glued them into a solid ball, like Darth Vader's prototype Chicken Star.

And then there was Elizabeth Sugar. Elizabeth Sugar was clearly the only person in the class who had actually bought a chicken and boiled it the day the project was announced. I suspect that she went through several chickens before getting the hang of the project. Her bones were polished and gleaming and wired together. Her anatomically perfect chicken skeleton was mounted handsomely on a polished wood base, and was posed as if poised for flight.

Elizabeth Sugar was chosen as valedictorian, to no one's surprise, and went to Harvard to study genetics. I believe that even as we speak, she is mapping the chicken human genome.

Me? I became a writer.

From: [identity profile] oracne.livejournal.com

I think that was not the wisest assignment a teacher could hand out...
oyceter: Delirium from Sandman with caption "That and the burning baby fish swimming all round your head" (delirium)

From: [personal profile] oyceter


Ow, trying not to laugh out loud in my cube and only succeeding by partially wheezing in a very odd manner.

From: [identity profile] thomasyan.livejournal.com

I once blamed Rachel for making me laugh so hard I coughed up blood.

Re the chicken stock: I *like* the gelatinous quality it gets when the skin is used. However, it shouldn't smell so bad. That's a sign something did not go quite right.

I wonder if the teacher had done Frankenchicken assignment? My guess is no, or else they *had*, and wanted to inflict the same pain on the kids. While lecturing computer science, I became a big fan of the writing up the sample solution as part of writing up a problem set or exam. I think most times when I assigned waaaay too much work, it was because I hadn't bothered to fully write out (including typeset) the solutions.

From: [identity profile] thomasyan.livejournal.com

I'm also betting one of the secrets to a successful Frankenchicken is to boil it until the flesh is soft enough to pick off the bones rather than untilt he flesh falls off on its own.

And part of the reason I wondered if the teacher had done it was my thought that it sure would be helpful to have an actual 3D model instead of just pictures.

From: [identity profile] thomasyan.livejournal.com

Sorry about the serial comments.

Another advantage of hand-removing the flesh? That means the bones are still partly attached by flesh, tendons, and skin, and therefore you have much less to reconstruct.

I mean, it's not like you were going to get tested in the classroom by having to reconstruct a skeleton on the fly in a class period were you?

From: [identity profile] fiveandfour.livejournal.com

OMG, that's one of the most evil school projects I've ever heard of. I was bitching to myself this morning about some assignment my daughter was given where the teachers simply gave a deadline for the completed project and had no mid-point reviews or other helpful tips to add, but the Frankenchicken project puts that all to shame.

Too funny. (Though I'm sure it wasn't very funny at 3am as you were assembling the bones.)

From: [identity profile] rilina.livejournal.com

Best. Story. Ever.

(I've also never really had much luck with meat stock. Vegetable stock I can do.)

From: [identity profile] sophia-helix.livejournal.com

The next morning we awoke to see the Frankenchicken lurking there atop the tabletop, lopsided, mutant, malevolent.

I got to this point and had to shut the window quickly, because I was just about to burst into hysterical giggles. Which would have kind of been a dead giveway that I wasn't listening to a word my Torts professor was saying. *g*
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

For our version of that assignment, we were given the choice of bunny, cat, or turtle -- corpse provided by the school, and we had to anatomize before skeletizing. One boy, intent on squicking the girls, picked cat, and everyone else took bunnies -- so of course I went for the turtle.

Which is not the world's easiest corpse to dismember. In fact, it's engineered to be hard to dismember. Really hard. It took a couple class periods to hacksaw my way through the shell. I finished this on a Friday, and had to put it away before actually opening it up. Can you say "delayed gratification is not fun," boys and girls? I knew you could. So on Monday, I was ready, even eager, to prize off the bottom. I pulled it out of the plastic bag -- and that's when we discovered two things:

1) There should have been a warning about cutting across, not down, the turtle's shell, lest you puncture the intestines. 2) Not only is it hard to cut open a turtle, it's hard to get enough formaldehyde inside one to perfectly preserve it.

I spent that period on a lab bench of my own, by the open window, with a fan blowing out. Ya, you betcha. Also, the teacher had me skip anatomizing and go straight to skeletizing. Which turned out to be the neatest looking skeleton in the class -- until you opened up the shell and could actually see the skeleton.

Me? I became a physics major.


From: [identity profile] janni.livejournal.com

I was never asked to skeleticize anything.

Maybe that's why I actually was a bio major?

(No, actually, I was a bio major because I was tired of having silver nitrate stain my hands. And also, because percent error was not my friend. And also, because I had something to prove to myself.)

From: [identity profile] tharain.livejournal.com

That is indescribably beautiful. That dad is a hero. I'm folded over my desk, laughing.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

Not only did he drag me and the Frankenchicken to school, he accompanied me into the classroom because he was so curious to see what the rest of the kids had come up with.

You know that stupid "lol"? d00d, you earned it. I especially loved the punchline of the v last sentence. And the image of all these little kids carrying in Frankenchickens....

From: [identity profile] janni.livejournal.com

Also, I have to confess to a certain amount of admiration of Elizabeth Sugar.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Elizabeth Sugar was That Girl: pretty, polite, well-liked, super-competent, and phenomenally smart. She was probably even decent at sports, or at least not picked last. Elizabeth Sugar was so amazing that no even hated her: we just occasionally stared at the phenomenon that she was in amazement that she was bothering to go to high school rather than transcending on the spot.

From: [identity profile] tharain.livejournal.com

Elizabeth Sugar was so amazing that no even hated her

That also speaks volumes about who she was. That she was that good and people still liked her is impressive indeed.

::snicker:: @ ...was bothering to go to high school rather than transcending on the spot.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Except that I misremembered where she went to college (ie, not Harvard), I think that this is probably her. The dates match up, anyway:


From: [identity profile] tharain.livejournal.com

I wondered if that was her (I'm a shameless googler). I rather thought it might be.

I'd just have trouble addressing someone as "Dr. Sugar", without being tempted to "Dr. Honey Bun" or "Dr Sweetie Pie", whether male or female.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

Elizabeth Sugar was so amazing that no even hated her: we just occasionally stared at the phenomenon that she was in amazement that she was bothering to go to high school rather than transcending on the spot

//belly laugh, how many years later?
ewein2412: (Default)

From: [personal profile] ewein2412

"Best. STory. Ever." I second that. hilarious! just hilarious.

had you read The Once and Future King yet, is what I want to know?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Oh, God, the black cat! That and the unicorn scene freaked the hell out of me. Yes, I had read it, but I never made the connection till you mentioned it.

From: [identity profile] hokelore.livejournal.com

I used to make my own stock, very painstakingly. Then I realized that nobody gave a shit, or indeed, even noticed. Now I just use water and a boullion cube.

From: [identity profile] canandagirl.livejournal.com

Both stories (from red shoes and yours Rachel), are very funny. I love the Darth Vadar Chicken Star.

Myself, I've always made chicken stock from raw chicken. You throw a whole chicken in a pot and fill it with water until the chicken is covered. I add in pepper corns and cloves and then boil the hell out of it for 2 hours. It's actually suppose to be bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours. I'm not much of a simmer type of person, so the stock ends up bubbling for a good part of the 2 hours.

Afterwards, I let the whole pot cool for a few hours then throw it in the fridge overnight. This gives the fat time to rise to the surface, and then it's easy to skim the fat off with a spoon. I take the chicken out, and by this time, the meat is really, falling off the bones. It's easy to take the skin off and separate the meat. I run the stock through a sieve and voila! Chicken stock.

From: [identity profile] slithytove.livejournal.com

My god, what a great story. Hide it immediately by making it Friends Only, then use it in a YA novel. I am serious about this.

"...was posed as if poised for flight."

Ah-HA! A mendacious narrative! The domestic chicken cannot fly!

As far as stock goes, I usually used canned chicken broth, which is superior to bullion cubes/powder, and no harder to, ahem, make.

But I do have a Ken Hom recipe for a Chinese chicken/rice stick soup, which includes making the base broth by boiling up chicken wings. I make it occasionally, and it is, indeed, very good. Note that the broth itself is too weak: it require the final addition of ground chicken when the soup is made to properly come up to speed.

From: [identity profile] jinian.livejournal.com

The domestic chicken cannot fly!

Which doesn't necessarily mean it's smart enough not to try. :)

(In case there hasn't been enough praise on it yet, I will mention that I have just emailed [a link to] this excellent story to yet another person.)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu

While I was traumatized by having to memorize photosynthesis and anaerobic respiration and a number of other things in high school bio, I can see that was a far, *far* preferable form of trauma.

I also particularly like "Darth Vader's prototype Chicken Star."

From: [identity profile] signy1.livejournal.com

Your (really quite brilliant) essay reminded me: there's a particular book at which I keep staring. (I work in a vintage bookshop. Odd, inexplicable stuff turns up there on a regular basis. The books are pretty weird, too.) This volume isn't all that vintage, as it happens; I think it might even still be in print. It's a children's book, one of those 'look, kids! Science isn't necessarily boring!' books that educators buy in desperation and leaf through before concluding that the author in question isn't living in the same plane of reality as the rest of us.

The title, give or take a bit of verbiage, is along the lines of 'Build your own dinosaur out of chicken bones.' Which, come to think of it, rather gives away the plot, as well as being a sterling example of reverse evolution. The gist of the book seems to be that if you take a chicken carcass or two, by the time you have boiled and cleaned the bones, and glued them into a reproduction dinosaur skeleton, the kids will have completely lost interest in paleontology.

Perhaps you could have claimed that your chicken was, in fact, a freakish throwback to its Cretaceous ancestors.

From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com

'Build your own dinosaur out of chicken bones.'

I own that book! With a title like that, I had to buy it.

He also provides a chicken soup recipe so you can deal with the leftovers.

From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com

You are an AMAZING storyteller. But you knew that.

From: (Anonymous)

I laughed so much at this entry I had tears in my eyes. They would have been rolling down my face if it had been a bit longer. I could just see you and your dad working on this. I wish you had a pix of the finished project - as well as some taken documenting your progress.
Anyway, thanks for a good laugh this morning.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore

I forgot all about this! GOD, it was hilarious.

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