13 Ways of Looking at a Chicken

Nina Planck

Nina Planck › Nina Planck is the founder London Farmers' Markets and the former Executive Director of the New ...


(After Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”)

“The thick strands that emerged on the other end didn’t precisely resemble chicken strips, and when I tasted them unadulterated I found it bland, unexciting and not very chicken-like.”
—Mark Bittman, “A Chicken Without Guilt,” The New York Times, March 9, 2012

Among twenty thousand chickens
The only moving things
Were forty thousand sad eyes.

I was of three minds
Are there only two ways of
Looking at a chicken?

Feathers flew in the great debate;
Omnivores and vegans cackled.
The mute chicken was a small part of the pantomime.
Does the chicken know what I know?

On good farms, chickens scratch in dust, grass.
Muscles flex, bones grow dense.
The rooster protects his hens from hawks.
I eat these chickens.

Precious, pricey chicken! They say.
Privileged, pretentious people—
Not real Americans.

Real Americans eat cheap, sad chicken.
Real Americans, rejoice!
Journalists declare the answer—
Hail “Chicken Without Guilt.”

Of course it is not chicken.
It is extruded soy protein.
It is water, canola, food coloring
And “chicken flavor.”

It is proprietary;
You cannot watch it grow;
You cannot make it from scratch;
You cannot buy it at the farmers’ market.

It is coming to a fast-food joint near you.
Inches of editorial praise it first—faintly.
It is “not very chicken-like,”
But slathered with mayonnaise, it fools the pros, fools its fans!
Fans long to be fooled.

God—or Nature—made the chicken.
Man made the “Chicken Without Guilt.”
It would not tempt a hungry fox,
Nor could it nourish a pregnant woman.

Oh soy “chicken,” where is thy skin?
How shall I make gribenes?
Oh soy “chicken,” where are your bones?
Where shall I get broth, rich in minerals?
Oh soy “chicken,” where is your fat?
Without Jewish penicillin, how to cure my husband’s cold?

They conjured fake breast milk from flour and water;
Babies died.
Mother’s little helper, the TV dinner—
Family life withered.
And hydrogenated vegetable oil, dyed yellow?
Margarine kills, not butter.

“Chicken Without Guilt”
To hell with hunters and gatherers
To hell with omnivores and fire-builders
To hell with nutrition
To hell with pleasure
To hell with millennia of human culture
Guilt-free at last.

What do you think about synthesized chicken?

Photo Credit: Peggy Greb