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Elder Wisdom

And So, After All These Years, We Meet Again, My Greatest Enemy: Chicken

TELFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: A Japanese Bantam is seen at the National Poultry Show on November 20, 2016 in Telford, England. The annual event continues to grow with around 7000 entries this year from all around the world. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Nothing good ever comes of a doctor’s appointment, and nothing ever has. You never get the lollipop and the sticker of a smiling sheep that says, “You’ve been a good lad and you’re in perfect health. Go forward and be multiplicative, ‘ewe’ little scamp.” It’s either informing you that you have a suspicious growth, why you have the growth, how it needs to come off with a sharpened melon baller, or telling you that you’re going to get the growth if you don’t smarten up fast. The tests begin next week, insurance doesn’t cover them, and there’s a cancelation fee of 145 percent for not showing up, you slovenly heap. Now do you want the sticker and the sucker?

Which brings us, revoltingly, to me. I visited my doctor, a kind and skilled practitioner on the outside but a vicious crusher of human souls on the inside. We won’t get into the details, but she gave essentially this diagnosis: “What the hell have you been doing to yourself all these years? You think this is a rental car?”

What she actually said is that I need to lose about one sixth of me (she recommended my head, but I got a second opinion), get more exercise, and stop eating off the Cuban diet: sugar on everything, everywhere, everyday. Essentially, she thinks I would be healthier if I didn’t look like the silhouette of Uruguay.

She recommended more vegetables (tolerable if smothered in balsamic and barbecue sauce), more fish (no problem there), and more chicken (I nearly staged a riot in the office).

Put simply, I hate chicken. I did as a child, and I do as an adult. I will see to it to hate chicken after I am dead. I will defy the essential states of being to hate chicken. Chicken is an abomination, and other than the times my father-in-law would barbecue it when we stayed at his house on the lake, I have avoided it like turnips smothered in anthrax. I think he put heroin in the sauce, but whatever; it was so good that he removed the most damning words in the culinary world: “It tastes like chicken.”

But my doctor is a persuasive sort—the soothing voice, the calmly delivered expertise and the illusion of caring for my well-being. Still, it cannot fully obscure the fact that she is quite clearly an agent of Big Hen, and that this news will fundamentally alter my dining experiences into an often joyless slog en route to making me view my meals as punishment for throwing a baseball through the neighbor’s bay window when I was seven. Karma is never off the clock. Besides, as it turns out, my family would like me to be a bit less Uruguayan as well and have been too polite to tell me the thing they’ve always wanted to say: “Dad, you are a human mudslide. Fix something.” Kids say the darnedest things right before they get hit with a cricket bat.

Now here’s where you come in, gentle busybodies. Shut up in advance. Don’t tell me that chicken is actually good, that it can be prepared in numerous delightful ways, and that I will be thankful for embracing my new healthier diet. Don’t tell me I won’t look like Chile, but I might eventually look like Argentina, which is better than Uruguay silhouette-wise. Don’t urge vegetarianism on me, or veganism, or even an all-gravel-and-toothpaste diet. Don’t diagnose me (“Seems like you have a three-horned tapeworm,” “My friend had this, and it ended up being leprosy,” or “My mom has a recipe for a great chicken cheesecake”). My doctor wants me to look less … well, less me. Pure and simple. And as I am properly fearful of anyone licensed to jam needles in me with a 40-foot run-up, I am grudgingly complying.

P.S. There will be no occasional updates, either. The next time you hear of this, it will be because I’ve strangled a guy in a chicken costume outside Popeyes, and CNN+—oops, too soon—TMZ will break the story.

Anyway, I have had my first chicken-based meal since the doctor vomited on my dietary nirvana, and my bride did a grand job making it as minimally chickeny as can be done without making it pork. But I knew. My soul knew. Big Hen has won, and it will win again. Big Hen is an enormous hell-bastard, and for all the stories of how beef is ruining the planet, chicken is getting away with reputational murder. It has a beak, for Christ’s sake. 

In sum, I am eating chicken now. And yes, it tastes like ashes and motor oil with every mouthful. But there is this: At least it isn’t turkey. Before that crime against man and nature occurs, I will look like a jowlier Kazakhstan with a glandular condition.