To make a curry, I remove the bones from a whole chicken. Before I was a cooking for myself I cooked for others, starting as a teenager scrubbing pots and eventually owned a little tiny restaurant. I was done with all this before Monsanto was splicing species together to either rule the world, destroy it totally- or both.
My roots are half hippy and half Marine – because my Kingston Trio beatnik bio major mom got knocked up by my former Marine father while they were freshman and senior at the University of Rhode Island. Each time I bone a chicken a lot of thoughts go through my head. This week it was Monsanto and GM foods – too scary to shake off easily.
We do not eat much meat, and try to eat organic as best we can. The chicken I was working on was labeled organic – I was hoping that this poor creature had been treated well, and I did my best to be respectful as I rationalized the hell out of my obvious role in it’s murder. But that was the hippy half speaking. The other half had me butchering flopping fish on the decks of really unseaworthy fishing boats before I was old enough to wash pots. I could kill all day and sleep like a baby, and get up and do it again. Every time I am prepping a chicken I think of all those fish, and Gary Christensen.
More than half the upscale coastal town I was raised was employed by the military or contractors to the military. More than half of the children of these workers opposed the war in Vietnam. It was not easy for young people to wear long hair and stay at home. Their parents had the entire community watching them. The kids left town. Gary Christensen, however, did not.
Gary was fully capable of escape. He had been just about the smartest kid in his class of really smart rich kids. Gary was also fully capable of survival, as he had been taught just about every possible skill required to prepare him for Vietnam, where he would have gladly gone had he not been so dam smart. Not only could he have served, he would have survived and saved others.
So when many of his generation were embracing counter culture for political reasons, Gary used every ounce of his intellect and training to show us how to escape the repressive and enjoy life. There was not a substance Gary had not mastered the recreational use of. Every food, drug, and beverage became part of his seemingly endless celebration of life.
I could not cook seven nights a week, and did not have the money to pay a chef, but Gary was a customer early on – we were making the cheapest and freshest food around. Soon I had him in the back and cooking. The customers loved him, and I loved not having to be there, so that’s how Gary became my cook. We cooked together on busy nights, and on slow nights we would slam some beers and listen to music. What I did not know was that Gary was a Junkie.
We went through a lot of chickens at the little restaurant. We would just about stew whole chickens and pick them to fill enchiladas, tacos, and burritos. Every chicken had its innards tucked inside – and I would just throw them out, but not Gary. One afternoon I walked through the door and saw his bearded face full of something that I knew we didn’t serve. He came at me with a chip covered with some strange crap as he mumbled incoherently – he practically shoved it in my mouth before I knew what it was – chicken liver pate (his own version).
Well, I have a million stories about Gary –too many to write here for sure, and it is wrong just to say that he died badly after a drug overdose, or so I had been told, years after I sold the restaurant. But I will never forget him – with his long white hair and beard, John Lennon glasses, and his incredible spirit. We did fight the repression – with Leon Redbone and Louis Armstrong music playing just loud enough to be heard in the dining room – but not while the customers where making their own margaritas with their own blenders.
Now, out of respect for the chicken, and in memory of a true warrior for peace and happiness, I sauté the guts of every chicken I buy. I never really acquired Gary’s passion for pate – but I eat it while my curry simmers away. I hate wasting anything and would like to believe that Gary’s life was not wasted. Yet there is a part of me that what ifs the heck out of everything. What if repression and warmongering had not taking so many lives? Might not have Monsanto been stopped? Might Gary Christensen be alive ?