Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Nose Knows

It’s hard to say whether it was me, or Rio who looked forward more to roasted chicken night at our house. Before moving to California in 1995 I was not familiar with the concept of buying a hot, fully roasted chicken from the local grocery store. Perhaps they were there and I never noticed, but I can tell you with certainty that there is no smell I find more intoxicating than the heady aroma of succulent, perfectly roasted fowl that someone else has taken the time to prepare for my dinner.

I have even become somewhat of a connoisseur of roasted chicken, and can safely say that the plumpest, juiciest, best bargain to be found of these is at your local Costco store, where you often have to stand in line to get these delicacies as they come off the spit. I’ve tried the ones from the local grocery stores, and have found them to be pitifully small, often dried out, and generally not nearly as tasty as those from Costco. I hesitate to think about where they get these birds, and how many pounds of hormones it took to get them to that size, but it’s easy to repress those thoughts as I’m pulling the sweet meat off the bones, juice dripping down my fingers and chin as I sample what we’re about to eat.

Usually we eat these about once a week, on top of a main dish salad, on a bed of mixed greens, with peppers, onions, goat cheese if we have it, garlic olives, and whatever else we could find in the refrigerator. It's a fairly quick meal to make. It always turns out too large, and we always hate ourselves for eating so much, but boy, is it good. There have been some times when I was so hungry that I swore I could have eaten a whole one completely by myself, it was so tantalizing.

I’m not sure how long we’ve been including Rio in this ritual, but it was clear to us that it was top on his list of favorite things too. Nothing got his attention like the smell of a roasted chicken emanating from the just-opened trunk of my car on chicken night. Usually when getting home from work I would take time to play fetch with Rio and do other chores before dinner, but the smell of the chicken removed any and all desire he might have had to play. He might obligingly run down the hill to bring the ball back once or twice, but after dropping it at my feet he would run right to the kitchen door, waiting to be let in, where the real object of his desire was.

It seems that for years we would give him bits of the skin that we avoided (for health reasons) mixed in with his dry food, and he would do anything for that. In retrospect it might not have been great for him, either, as we learned from the vet about 6 months ago that his triglycerides were staggeringly high for a dog. But it’s true, he would hold himself in a “stay” right in front of the steaming bowl, glancing quickly between us and the bowl, perhaps hoping to receive our “OK!” signal with the least amount of delay. He would hold that stay just as long as we commanded him to, and it was a good exercise in self-restraint for a dog who was otherwise easily distracted. And then he ate it in about 30 seconds, including a thorough licking of the bowl.

The other night we had the first roasted chicken since Rio died. When I had finished pulling off the skin on the pieces we would use on our salad, it struck me that nobody would be eating it. It would go in the garbage. There would be no obedience demonstration. There would be no sense of symbiosis as he shared this food with us and nothing went to waste. I sure miss that guy.

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