Months ago I visited home (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and was therefore feeling nostalgic. I wrote most of this blog post months ago, but have now decided to finish it, enjoy.
I think of my old eating habits as a child and teen, and my progression once I left for college. I try to pin-point where I clung on to food and cooking- as if the moment were some sort of exact snapshot in time. That's probably the real answer though- there is no exact moment. I grew up raising animals and had a father who was an avid hunter. Meat and potatoes was a way of life. I loved chicken, it was my favorite food group. I also ate a lot of processed food. It was kind of a weird mix to grow up on, I wasn't eating gourmet or healthy in my younger years, yet there were those things I was privileged enough to experience. Fresh Blue Gill. Moose steaks. Mutton stew. Rabbit. Venison sausage. Beef from the farm down the road. Lamb chops from last years 4-H Project. Trout. Farm fresh eggs. Bear. I ate so much meat as a kid. I was surrounded by people who raised animals and small farms who sold you things from their freezer; as well as had a father and mother whom hunted, and a boyfriend at the time whom loved to fish. I always laugh at people who ask me if I have ever consumed any of the meat from animals I raised myself. Of course I have! I do admit, as a child eating your pet was hard for a while, but honestly I grew to wish I could raise all the meat I consume. It's one of the same reasons I cook. I want to know what I am putting in my body.
This brings us to Chicken Liver Pate.
At the time of my visit home, my mother owned seven chickens she raised from chicks. Three ended up being roosters who picked on the hens and each other. They had to go. My dad butchered them while I was home, and put them in the freezer. At the cookout we had that day before my flight back to Seattle, my mother made chicken liver pate, with the livers of the chickens murdered the day prior. Maybe that sounds graphic to you, but it sounds delicious to me. I eat a lot less meat now a days. I sometimes go weeks with out eating any at all besides tasting my ingredients on the line at work. I think my reasoning is mostly sustainability driven as well as some health concerns, but of course I think I'm just over meat because I used to consume so much. That day though, I ate half the bowl of chicken liver pate with zero qualms. The chickens lived a good happy life full of food, water, shelter and a very caring owner. They ran freely around the yard, they went on adventures in the forest, and took over my dad's wood room. They were big, beautiful, healthy, roosters whom sadly at this point of their life had no more purpose, so they had to go. Who knows what life any other chicken you eat at restaurant or by from a store has lived. I look at people whom eat meat so often and ask how they can do it without ever having stepped one foot on a farm. I know it's hard for some people to get to a farm, and I think that fact makes me more sad than anything.
As I look for where my passion for food comes from, for a reason behind my love for food, I realize I've been a chef for longer than I've known. I have been growing plants and animals since before I was in pre-school. Ingredients are the key in any recipe.
I'm in it for the ingredients.
chicken livers(fresh); boiled, patted dry
add mayo until smooth
So simple, so good. My sister and I stare each other down as we indulge. Neither of us want to share. I remember it was my sister's husband who really got me into raising chickens. One day he even had us over to butcher some. During this "not always so easy" task I heard my brother-in-law referring to the chickens as 'bastards'. My young self, not knowing any better, happily answered "Bastard chickens!" to my father when he asked what kind of chickens we were eating at the dinner table. My brother-in-law will never be able to escape this story.