I was recently shocked to learn that Australians eat around 47 kilos of chicken each year. That’s a lot of drumsticks. Compared to the mid 1960s when we ate only 5 kilos a week, we have a voracious appetite for chicken these days.
BBQ’d, roasted, nuggets, thighs, corn fed, organic, antibiotic-free you can even get chicken on pizza these days. Not at my place though.
We’re a corn-free household. I prefer thighs. My bloke likes breasts.
Probably once or twice a week we’ll cook chicken as part of a stir-fry or throw a whole chook in the oven with some potatoes. Toss a lush green salad and voila, dinner.
It’s a pretty casual affair. When I think back to the pole position chicken held as Sunday lunch when I was kid, today there are no signs of fanfare when it’s chicken for dinner at our place.
You see chicken was a big deal for a long time at 16 Hillcrest Street, Homebush in the 1970s.
It wasn’t so much the taste as the drama of getting our hands on chicken in the first place. It was so…posh.
Frozen chicken had only just been invented and as part of the mass marketing of this exciting new food, organisations like the Homebush Bowling Club replaced the traditional meat tray with frozen chooks as prizes.
The rock solid frozen lump of chicken strangled tightly in its plastic wrapper travelled well from the club house to the winners’ homes each week after the Sunday morning roll-up.
My grandfather Frank Moore was a keen bowler. Each Sunday he’d head down for the men’s roll-up at the same time as my brother and sister and I went to mass to take Holy Communion with Father Humphries.
After an hour at church with the Holy Spirit on board, we’d dash home, toss off our good clothes, don our shorts, bolt out the front door, up the path to the front gate to catch a glimpse Pa on his way home, hopefully with a prize chook.
Swinging on the front gate we’d stare up the end of Hillcrest Street like a bunch of discoverers. Had he won us a little taste of the high life that week? Would we be eating like rich families on the other side of the train line or would it be corned beef again?
We were on the look-out for Frank Montague Moore, a lanky, balding 50 year-old dressed in the regulation cream jacket and trousers defined by the NSW Lawn Bowlers Association.
The first evidence of victory would be in the arch of his right arm. If he’d had a win, you could spot the outline of his arm holding the frozen packet aloft. If he’d lost there was nothing up in the air. You’d just see his lanky frame but with rounded shoulders, hands in pockets, head down.
Mind you he was never a bad sport about losing. Three years in a Changi prison camp, two brothers dying in front of him had muted any excess of emotion in Pa.
He must have been in his early 50s but I thought he was 100.
Money was scarce in his household but we never went hungry. Tea was the typical rotation of chops, corned beef and sausages with three veg. That is, until frozen chicken was invented and Pa joined the Homebush Bowling Club.
Chicken surprises turned to dizzying heights at Christmas time when the club upped the ante and put frozen turkeys in the prize pack for the Sunday roll up.
Nan must have breathed a sigh of relief when Pa had a win in December.
Compared to the compact, tiny chicken, a turkey looked gigantic as Pa held it up with pride along Hillcrest Street from the club.
We could barley contain our excitement. “He won, he won.” “We’re going to have turkey for Christmas,” the three of us would scream as we almost broke the front gate to herald this victory to the whole street.
Thanks Pa. Christmas has never tasted so good.