January 2014
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Eggs and Chickens

  Cason, left, and Rolley Len enjoy feeding and watching the chickens.

Down at the end of a long dirt road sat a neat one-story house with a tidy yard. There was no electricity or water running to the house. The house belonged to my great-aunt Daisy and great-uncle Dave Hollingsworth. My mother, then Sandy Smith, spent many hours at Daisy and Dave’s house. After Dave died, Daisy moved into my mother’s Grandma Pearl’s house, so they saw each other more often after that.

Aunt Daisy was the person who took Mom to Deerman’s Chapel in Steele and taught her about the Bible. They took walks to both the cemeteries near the house, and she taught her about people who were buried there. Daisy warned Mom about the hobos who rode the rails that ran behind the house. Mom has a lot of memories from her visits to their house and many of them involve gathering and preparing food for the rest of the family.

My Great-Grandma Pearl kept chickens at her house. They were Dominickers and my mother helped Pearl with them and even named them: Mutt, Jeff, Ola and Judy. These "pets" were not eaten, but their eggs were. Some of the other chickens were eaten. Mom took care of the new chicks. She played with them and, as they grew, they followed her around the yard.

The Kirks’ chickens usually stay in the coop, but this rooster seems to be enjoying his time outside.  

Grandma Pearl had a chalk egg she would put underneath the hens to coax them to sit and hatch their own eggs. One day when my mom was little, she was acting like a chicken sitting on her eggs and Pearl slipped the chalk egg under her. She said her grandma laughed and laughed because Mom thought she had really laid an egg.

Eggs were collected each day and stored in an open bowl on the cabinet rather than being refrigerated. The eggs were used so quickly they never went bad. Mom said that one time, when an egg was broken into the skillet, an embryo was there, so it had to be thrown out. However, when an egg was cracked and a double yolk was discovered that was considered good luck.

While some children today grow up not knowing where any of their food comes from, mother knew exactly where her fried chicken came from. Grandmother Pearl would go out to the chicken coop, pick out a mature chicken and wring its neck. Even though my mother has never been squeamish, she never got the hang of wringing a bird’s neck - although she did try.

Jason and I have had chickens at our house since Rolley Len was a baby. We started with 12 Bantam hens and roosters, and one tough rooster we named Alden after a former coworker. Our birds were free range and roamed the yard. We didn’t eat these chickens, but they laid plenty of eggs, which we did eat.

Having chickens can be an inexpensive way to add protein to your diet, but usually only if your chickens can be out of their pen during the day. They can eat from the land instead of only eating feed you have to buy. Raising your own birds also means you should have healthy, chemical-free chickens to help provide for your family long-term. Whether you keep them in a coop or allow them to roam, the chicken litter can also be a money-saver by being used as fertilizer.

After about 1.5 years, our chickens and roosters started slowly disappearing from the yard. We were down to Alden and another Bantam rooster that stayed on our back porch. Rolley Len named that one Duck and he would stand on the back of a porch chair, peering into a window, and crowing over and over. Being the last two birds left, and the only ones that were named, we were protective of them by making sure they were tucked away at night, but it was not enough.

While I was pregnant with Cason, I came home one day and saw the hawk perched on top of Alden’s fluffy body lying lifeless in the driveway. Feathers were everywhere and it was too much for me. We kept Duck in the pen after that and it was a while before we got more chickens. Our new chickens stay in the coop most of the time. So far we have not had any eggs from them, though, and we have to get our eggs from the store until they decide to lay.

Eggs are one of the most versatile items you can have in your kitchen. Not only can you use them in recipes, but they can stand on their own whether boiled, fried, scrambled or poached. Eggs can be sophisticated in quiche or crepes or as simple sustenance. I remember eating an over-easy egg with crumbled saltines all mashed together as a child and loving it. Whether it is for breakfast or dinner, add an inexpensive protein by having eggs at your next meal. You might be surprised at the variety of dishes you can come up with.

Cheesy Bacon, Asparagus & Spinach Quiche

1 pound bacon, cooked and broken into smaller pieces

2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 bundle asparagus, steamed and chopped

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

½ cup whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Other optional ingredients: diced mushrooms and sautéed, diced onion

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

In a greased quiche or pie pan, place a thin layer of bacon on bottom. Layer spinach and asparagus on top of bacon. Add second layer of bacon on top of the vegetables.

In a medium size bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, milk and cream together. Add white pepper, nutmeg, salt, pepper and cayenne to liquid mixture and mix until well blended.

Pour the mixture over the ingredients in pie pan.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove and add cheese. Return to oven and bake about 40 more minutes. Remove and let set for 20 minutes before serving.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.