Monday, June 7, 2010

Q and Q Live Poultry Market

Saturday June 5th 2010
Q and Q Live Poultry Market, 12th and Spring Garden, Philadelphia, PA

I know I don’t usually put up entries about markets, but I will be getting more into that granted the market deserves to be written about, which this one definitely does. I first noticed it while I was walking down Spring Garden one day, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I was hit with a wall of animal stench, pet store style. My senses had been taken by surprise and I glanced through the open door to my right, I was still walking so I only saw what I saw for a couple seconds, but it felt much much longer. It was a blur of feathers, wings, people awkwardly reaching out with stretched arms trying to clutch a loose bird, cacophonous squawking, water, a mix of languages, total and complete chaos. A few steps past I stopped and stood motionless for a moment to let my thoughts settle into place, let my internal sense maker process all that properly. I went back and stood out front to get a better look. Just madness, nothing more nothing less. A room full of animals not so patiently awaiting their dinner plate fates and a few people struggling to make it work. Quite the scene.
Originally having planned the second 24 hour barbecue for this day (more on that later), but changing our minds, we hung around Rick’s house thinking maybe a little practice grill session was in order before we started the big 24 hour one. Talking about grilling, talking about food, we somehow stumbled upon the topic of killing your own meat. Everyone seemed to agree that it would be an important thing to do, to have the experience of killing the animal you’ll eat, as a reminder of where our food comes from, and to not take it for granted.
Before I knew it we were all packed into Robert’s car headed straight for the Q and Q poultry market. We laughed about how humorous it would be on the drive back, with the five of us all crammed into this tiny car trying to control a wild chicken, in the back of my mind thinking how disturbing and sloppy this potential kill was going to be. I imagined the first attempt not taking, setting everyone into panic mode as an injured bird flopped about the back yard in pain, none of us having any clue how to efficiently and humanely put it out of its misery, let alone clean and prepare it afterwards.
It was pretty hard to get anyone’s attention in this place. English was not the preferred language. The guy who was hosing the place down and squeegeing the excess water into the drain in the center of the floor couldn’t help me. The woman behind the counter directed me to another woman, she was the one who was really working the magic. Grabbing a bird out of the cage with one hand, tying its feet to the scale, weighing it as the bird dangled upside down flapping about in confusion. “No kill, no sell.”, she told me, crushing our dreams of finally stepping into adulthood, secretly relieving all of us greatly.

We ordered one “Young Chicken” at $2 a pound, which came out to about $10 bucks. “This one?”, she asked, pointing to the first one in the cage. We nodded and watched as she dragged it away, seemingly against it’s will, past the ‘employee only’ sign, back into what I assume is the ‘killing room’. There was a morbid silence as we waited, knowing we’d just singled out one unlucky bird and sentenced it to death, pretty much just out of boredom on our part. A few minutes later she appeared with a plastic grocery bag with noticeable weight in it, she opened it up, glanced inside, and then called our number. We paid and left with the plucked carcass of the young chicken that was clucking about before us only moments ago, crudely stuffed into the bag.

Seeing how amateurish Rick’s preparation techniques were, as he basically damaged the meat and mutilated the body with a series of equally dull blades, I couldn’t have been happier that we weren’t faced with a living creature to take care of. We probably wouldn’t have killed it, maybe just let it go in the Wawa parking lot or something, ordered a sandwich inside.
Some hot dogs had been put on the grill first which cooked normally without any snags, but as soon as the chicken meat was on there, the flames shot up, completely engulfing the chicken and they didn’t soon subsist. I would dare call this chicken, ‘overdone’. Once the blackened shell was scraped off, the inner meat was kind of alright, tender, probably once juicy, but now quite dry.

We wanted to think we were tough enough to take the life of an innocent young chicken and have ourselves a feast, but in reality it wasn’t even possible for us to cook one correctly. We’re Americans god damn it! It’s 2010! What business do we have killing anything anyways? Someone else will do it for you for a small fee. The cave ages have passed, humanity has found new ways. In closing I would like to thank the woman from Q and Q for knowing how to spot a gang of goofballs (it couldn’t have been that hard), and stop them from taking a Saturday afternoon joke too far.

Mike's Kitchen

Friday June 4th 2010
Mike’s Kitchen, Randall and Atwood, Cranston, RI

VFW halls can serve many a purpose. They act primarily as a congregation spot for veterans of past wars, a place where they can be amongst their people, sharing their combat stories, without the distractions of someone who wouldn’t understand. But then they also seem to be fine with renting the place out to some high school kid who wants to have a punk show, they might do a flea market in one, or in this case open an Italian restaurant.
With only this small vague sign hung in the window as an advertisement that there’s a restaurant inside, you think business would be slow. Even if you did happen to notice the sign just passing by the place, it doesn’t exactly do a lot to draw you in, but word of mouth has apparently spread, because the place is packed! Parking lot completely full, the cramped dining room totally jammed with people. People of all ages too, not just elderly shell shocked veterans smoking through their tracheotomies.

I tried a few bites of my Dad’s stuffed Quahog. This was the first time I’d had Quahog and up until this point despite being a native Rhode Islander, I had no idea what one was, which didn’t do a lot for my local pride with the Quahog being the punch line to a lot of regional jokes that up until now had gone right over my head. It was enlightening to learn, having spent so many years in the darkness when all I had to do was ask. Basically it’s just a giant clam, apparently this is quite a small one here, and when served stuffed its all minced up with seasonings and some type of bread crumb stuffing and then put back into the shell. Not bad.
My main course was the grilled sausage and pickled pepper sandwich, which was served with, well, just that. The peppers were most certainly pickled, someone had given them a real vigorous no holds barred pickling quite some time ago I would imagine. A bite with the combination of the sausage and peppers was great, two opposing flavors meshing nicely, but when my teeth would miss the sausage completely and I had a mouth full of bread and pickled pepper, oh boy was I in trouble. Each crunchy chomp would release another searing blast of shockingly tart juice, involuntarily contorting my facial expressions while I chewed and swallowed. I would yearn for that sausage. Eventually I was forced to remove some of the peppers, they had been quite generous with them, but the ratio of the two ingredients needed to be equal if I was going to enjoy myself, and with time I did.

A lot of traditional classic Italian dishes were served here. A lot of veal, a lot of interesting pasta and meat combinations. And if I couldn’t tell it was a serious place by reading the menu, the presence of the older gentleman who sat in the corner, leaned back in his chair, empty plate before him, hands flat on the table while his head went slowly from side to side, surveying the room, confirmed it. I had reservations about having something as heavy as the pasta for lunch, right before I would return to the relentless sun and the door whose paint needed removing, but next time I think I’ll go for it and see what happens.