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Lucky Bird?

IMG_6971Today I went down to Providence, Rhode Island to visit Tony’s Colonial Food for a review I put up on A Beautiful Bite. After enjoying the most delectable lunch of authentic homemade mushroom ravioli and the best broccoli rabe I’ve had in a long time, my friend/tour guide Maria took me on a walk to show me some of the lesser known sights of Federal Hill.

Maria is Portuguese. And as many of you know, my Mom lives in Terceira, Portugal. Maria is a fine cook and we spent a good long time talking about quirky foods that are served in other countries that Americans would find odd. Blood soup came up during the conversation. “Where the heck would you find blood to use in blood soup?” I asked Maria. “Come on.” she said. “I’ll show you.”

Maria took me to a shop just a short walk from Tony’s. It was a poultry shop where you can find all kinds of birds such as geese, pigeons and different varieties of chicken.

IMG_6973The first thing I saw when we walked in was this parrot in a cage by the door. Ok, I’m not a bird person. So, if this isn’t a parrot, have some grace. I have no idea what kind of bird it is. It looks like a happy one to me. Regardless, we’ll get back to the happy bird shortly.

IMG_6979Maria pointed out a plastic curtain at the back of the shop. “Go check it out” she said. And I did. Through the curtain I went and what I saw on the other side totally took me by surprise. Live birds everywhere. So, the way it works is that you go in and pick the bird you want butchered. Very old school. Very fresh. I thought I was going to pass out.

IMG_6975No, I was certain I was going to pass out. Feathers flying. Butchers butchering. Pigeons squawking.

I’m all for farm to table, but this was a little more than I was prepared for.

As I was leaving the shop, I couldn’t help but wonder about the parrot. Was he the luckiest bird in the shop or the most unfortunate? A tough one to call. And pretty ironic that a poultry shop would keep a pet bird.

I’m sure the poultry is fresh and delicious. But it shows you how insulated we are from our food’s origins. I mean, many of us are used to seeing our chicken sort of neat in its packaging at the grocery store. It has to start like this somewhere, doesn’t it?

What a crazy day.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh My God!! Melanie, how did you stay in there long enough to take pix?? I can’t imagine you surviving such an adventure!! You don’t do trauma of any kind well unless it is you or your family and your survival and protective instincts kick in strong. This had to push you to your limit!

  2. This makes me think of Mary Oliver’s poem “Farm Country”

    I have sharpened my knives, I have
    Put on the heavy apron
    Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
    In blue willow-pattern bowls.
    I have put on my boots and opened
    The kitchen door and stepped out
    Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn,
    I have entered
    The hen house.

    I would not have lasted as long as you did!
    I admit that I am a “dishonest carnivore” – often content with my distance from farm realities. Yet after exposure to an experience like you had today I usually find myself decreasing animal products and upping the vegetables and beans.

    • Oh my. That is like a Poe poem for farmers. Does a raven pass by the hen house as she enters? Lol. I’m a carnivore through and through. I even had chicken for dinner that night!

  3. We certainly are isolated from our food origins. I recently read where most children when asked what animal bacon came, or hamburger, had no clue.
    Some of those chickens might likely be mine! We raise poultry and sometimes send the ones we don’t need to an auction in that area!
    I’m am not saying everyone needs to kill their own food or milk their own cows but I think it’s a good idea that we know where our food comes from… and I don’t mean Stop and Shop!

    • Isn’t that sad that the kids don’t know where their food comes from? It’s a harsh reality, but important to understand. The older I get, the more whole my food becomes. Sure, we still have the boxes of cereals and snacks the kids like. But I’m finding it increasingly important to use foods close to their original source for our main meals.

  4. What would have bothered me most there was the small cages that the birds are stuffed in to. We picked out our turkey for Thanksgiving and then picked it up the day before and it looked like a turkey we purchase at the store. When the budget permits, I like getting poultry like this because it supports local farmers and usually the birds are happy (and free range) up until they are butchered. Are the birds raised in that shop or just brought in to be butchered? I hope you got some fresh eggs!?!?!?! They really do make a difference in baked goods.

    • I think there is really high turnover of product in this particular store. I don’t think they stay that way long. They were hacking away like crazy. Shudder. I couldn’t stomach staying there long enough to get the eggs. The smell had me on the verge of upchucking. I had to get out asap. I know of a local who sells fresh eggs. They have a stall outside. So, I’ll get them there in the fresh air. 🙂

  5. I drive down the same stretch of highway here in Columbia, SC every morning to get to work, and I usually see a couple of semi trucks with chickens in cages in them off to the slaughter house right near downtown. I’ve been known to drive miles out of my way just so I don’t see them. The areas right outside of Columbia are heavily populated with chicken farms. You don’t drive out that way. The stench, especially in the summer, can knock you out.

    I’ve had “issues” in the past few years after I started seeing these trucks that I skip meat about 3-4 days a week. I didn’t eat chicken wings for over a year 🙂

    • Oh the smell, Deanne. You are so right. It’s staggering. I entertained the idea of getting a chicken coop, but after that experience, no thank you.

  6. I understand where you are coming from. My grandparents were farmers. I saw how the chickens were butchered. My thing is I can eat chicken from the grocery store because I never saw that chicken running around the farm, but don’t expect me to eat a chicken fresh from the farm, because I just can’t do it. I just can’t get past the idea of eating chicken that was living just a few hours ago and I had seen alive.

  7. Rosanne A says:

    The little bird in the cage is a peach faced lovebird; a small type of parrot… usually kept in pairs, but if they are hand-fed as babies they are very interactive with people… very sweet birds!

  8. I was horrrified that the chickens are confined to such a small space, even for a short period of time. I am no wimp. I held my sick chicken for a friend to kill yesterday. He “beat” her to death because his machete was dull…horrors. When her neck was pulverized, she still moved. I watched. I will purchase a hatchet so that I won’t have to have another bird die like that. It only took ten seconds, but still… I could never work or even visit a meat processor because of the stench emanating from the facility.

    Back in the 1960s, our high school Future Physicians Club toured a huge meat processing plant. I can verify that the stench is overwhelming. I am mentally tougher now, but gag more easily. You are brave.

    • Oh my. That is horrible. I can’t even visualize it. I would’ve required smelling salts. You are a stronger woman than me.

  9. Oh, memories. There are a couple of those shops in Chinatown, and I remember having to accompany my grandmother there every week to pick up dinner. Always hated it because of the smell, and the terrifying screams of the birds. It never stopped me from eating the chicken later on that night though!

    • Lol, yup. My tummy is bothered only as long as it takes to get it on a plate. Luckily they weren’t chopping the heads off when I was there. They were just butchering the parts. I don’t ever want to see a chicken getting its head cut off.

  10. Patricia N. says:

    Both of my parents grew up on farms where they butchered their own animals. When my cousin was a young girl, someone gave her a chick for Easter. It turned out to be a rooster which she named Herman. Unfortunately, my cousin realized a couple of years later that they were eating Herman for supper. My aunt, being the true farmer’s daughter, thought it best to cook Herman before he was too tough to eat. My cousin was quite traumatized for quite some time after that.
    My Dad always said, “Don’t name the farm animals that you intend to eat. Once you name them, they become pets.

  11. One of my best friend’s family grew up raising their own meat (pig, lamb). They named the aminal they were raising and then after the animal was butchered, the white packing paper was labeled with the animal’s name. I can’t imagine my dad asking me, “Could you please go get some Daisy/Fluffy/Spot from the freezer for dinner?”

  12. Winnie P. says:

    That was enough to make me go vegetarian again…maybe.

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