It looked like someone had just murmured, “Sleeeeeeppppp,” into its very visible earhole, while smothering it with a tiny pillow. I couldn’t stop staring at its closed eyes, which featured actual blonde eyelashes. The chicken was laying on it’s stomach, beak pointing north, with one eye facing towards me.
If the octopus hadn’t murdered my appetite, this sure as f*ck had.
“Just don’t look at it,” my ex kicked me from under the table. He knew that the gray look on my face was five seconds away from being noticed by his parents, who had taken us to this god-forsaken French restaurant.
We were very similar mind wise, so when that damn chicken came out on the plate, he already knew what I was thinking, which was, “HOLY SHIT! THAT CHICKEN STILL HAS ITS HEAD ATTACHED TO ITS BODY!”
Here I was, country as hell, at this fancy restaurant where the cheapest bottle of wine was $150 dollars. It was something straight out of a Reba song.
“Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down,” I whispered to myself.
The words “ole chicken head” began seeping through my brain from some lost memory. My friend that I used to work with would always affectionately call me a chicken head, which never really made sense to me, but I just accepted and embraced it.
“Shut up, Annie!” I probably said out loud to everyone seated at the dinner table.
I couldn’t fight it off, though. “Ole chicken head” began imprinting itself upon my motor skills like the episode of Dexter’s Laboratory where he forgets English and can only say, “omelette du fromage,” otherwise known as “cheese omelette” in French.
I was afraid if anyone even remotely spoke to me, I’d be omelette-du-fromaging all over the place, except with much less elegant-sounding words.
“Ma’am would you like another glass of wine?” the waiter would ask.
“Ole chicken head!” I’d respond back.
“Anyone up for some dessert?” he’d pose.
“Ole chicken head!” I’d try to stifle through my napkin, as I gestured towards the creme brûlée on the menu.
Fine dining is one of those things that I just don’t understand. Why do people spend $1,000.00 on one meal? What are they eating that needs to cost $950.00 more than what the rest of us are? Why couldn’t we have just gone to KFC, where I wouldn’t have to feel sorry for the chicken awaiting its demise. Why did I have to look at it in the eyes, while four people picked it apart like savages?
I had so many questions, but I couldn’t ask any of them out loud.
I’m already nearly a vegetarian, so it’s rare to find me chowing down on a steak or a hamburger. I’d much rather have a platter of fruits and veggies, than something that looks like an Aztec human sacrifice.
The restaurant was called Hubert’s, which sounded harmless enough, right? When I think of the name Hubert, I think of a silly old man, who loves reading the newspaper on his front porch. He’ll give you a piece of that hard candy that looks like a strawberry, but not ask you to look into the soul of an animal, right before he begins carving it up like a serial killer.
This was one of the few meetings I had with my ex’s “mum” and stepfather that put me into a cold sweat.
First of all, I HATE French food, unless it’s like pastries or crepes and shit. When I was in France, I probably lost 90 pounds, solely because the food was vile. Everything was, in my very American opinion, undercooked, weird, and basically like the chef said, “Hey, you know what? We should like grab some snails from outside and mix them in with some amputated arms of sea creatures, but not cook them, and then let them sit out for a few days.”
So, basically, I’m the epitome of a chef wanting to bitch slap me, if you can’t tell.
Needless to say, I automatically became sick upon the thought of having to perform my A-game with his parents and having to eat French food.
I could manage one or the other, but not both at once.
Not on the menu: a recipe for a mental breakdown.
With his mum, it wasn’t that I didn’t like her, I just couldn’t identify with her. While I’m hyper-focused, she’s the epitome of ADD. She was like this raging eccentric ball of energy, which made me a bit nervous. I never once saw that woman sit down on the couch for more than 0.07 seconds. Her preferred modus operandi was enacting Newton’s laws of motion.
Good on her, because she was shredded and could actually kick my ass on any given day. I’m talking about a lady who was in her 60s and swam two miles in the ocean every single day around a rock called “Shark Island.”
Are you fucking serious?
I didn’t expect us to be identical twins or anything, but I found her hard to get to know. I couldn’t imagine giving her a call or asking her out to lunch. We’d never go shopping together, because she didn’t care about that kind of stuff.
She and her husband did like to go to this cute little coffee shop called Grind, which seemed like a great name for a gay bar. We were expected to Grind it out a couple of times, while visiting, which I did actually enjoy. But, Grind appeared to be mostly something her husband liked.
Her husband, Jerry*, was quite possibly my soul sister.
I either have a connection with someone, or I just don’t. I’m not sure if I reminded him of one of his kids, or he reminded me of an old past-life friend, but we definitely James Bonded during my trips. But, he wasn’t supposed to be the one that I was off chit-chatting to. Jerry wasn’t even a real biological member of their family, which concerned me, since I liked him the most.
One day, we had made a spread of things like toast and cheese, which seems relaxing enough, right?
His mom, being a great hostess, began piling up more and more food onto the table. We were balls deep in an impossible amount of cheese and bread. She then sat down in the floor for maybe two or three seconds, and then got back up, disappearing into another room. I knew she wouldn’t be in there for long, though.
When she came back out, I cannot make this up, she was holding a miniature, six-inch tall, statue of Christ the Redeemer, the giant Jesus who watches over Rio de Janeiro. She pressed a button and set the plastic white statue on the table. We watched in silence as it blinked in multiple different neon colors.
It was like Jesus up in the club.
I was starting to get epilepsy staring into the eyes of my Lord and Savior.
This had to have been one of the strangest, surrealist experiences of my entire life, especially considering that none of them were remotely religious.
“Why?” was obviously written in both of our eyes enough for her to automatically explain.
“Oh, well, I just thought that he would be a good decoration!” she rationalized.
Don’t get me wrong, I found it very entertaining, but so unpredictable.
When we got to Hubert’s, I almost expected her to pull Christ out of her purse. Honestly, I’d rather look at EDM-loving, music festival-going Jesus than at a mummified chicken head any day.
After a few quick hellos, talk of appetizers began. Naturally, I was tasked with picking one.
Between blood cake, roasted snails, liver mousse, soft egg yolk, and Sydney rock oysters, which sounded like the Australian version of Rocky Mountain oysters, I opted for what I believed to be something bearable: the octopus.
This was seriously turning into Fear Factor, except I didn’t win a prize at the end.
When the octopus came out, it was cut into tiny pieces, the size of maybe a dime. I picked up a piece with my fork, while all eyes stared at the guest of honor. Everyone was holding their breath to see if I would like it.
And I chewed.
And I chewed.
“Wow, this is really incredible!” I said, half-heartedly. It tasted like fish flavored gum, but hopefully this would get everyone off my back for awhile. It seemed to work as they then began focusing on a giant fish that entered stage left on a platter set directly before my eyes.
“Oh god,” I thought, “Please don’t ask me to try the fish.”
I don’t eat seafood, except for the occasional shrimp. This fish looked like it was found floating face-side up in the Sydney Harbor. It’s milky, dead eyes produced an immediate queasy feeling.
At this moment, the blood cake didn’t sound too bad.
Before this meal, I was starving, but I had barely touched any of my octopus.
It was becoming apparent that I wasn’t liking this extremely expensive food, which I genuinely felt horrible about and completely tried to hide. I knew that this dinner was meant to send me off back to America happy and feeling welcomed into their family, but I felt entirely out of place.
By the time the chicken came out, I was pretty doped up on wine. This is a natural coping mechanism for me.
Now completely drunk, I began noticing intimate details about this creature. There was something poetic about the chicken. He was gently crisped to a tan color, but had this serene, almost angelic, look about him.
If I was to write this as a movie scene, it would be a zoomed in shot of my face, as faint Irish-sounding melody of bagpipes begins to play. The camera pans in on the chicken’s face, as Josh Groban’s voice blissfully starts singing.
“When I am down, and oh, my soul so weary. When troubles come, and my heart burdened be. Then, I am still and wait here in the silence. Until you come, and sit awhile, with me.”
Then a powerful gospel choir sings, “You raise me up! So, I can stand on mountains! You raise me up! To walk on stormy seas. I am strong, when I am on your shoulders…”
While this is all happening, the chicken is just being torn to shreds. The carnage is horrible. The camera is still solely on the chicken, showing its face in a solemn, faint light, while animalistic humans feast upon its body.
Then Josh very quietly sings, “You raise me up to more than I can be…” as the chicken takes its final breath.
So, yeah, I think the moral of this story is: I ain’t fancy. Don’t take me to a French restaurant. I will be able to create an opera out of a dead chicken.