July 6

National Fried Chicken Day

 

You squeeze the paste out of a tube and onto the edge of your index finger.  The paste is dark brown, like the gelatin that forms around a scoop of canned catfood.  There’s an earthy odor to the mixture as you raise it to your face, and a slight brothy undertone that, rather unconvincingly, suggests chicken stock.

The tube actually has a picture of a chicken on it.  A live one, standing proud in a farmyard, rather than the chickens you’d encountered more frequently:  a beige slab with grill marks, a breaded puck on a roll, or the severed fried segments you identified as wings or thighs or breasts or those strangely weighted drumsticks.

You lick the gelatin, deciding your finger doesn’t taste like chicken.  It’s meat-flavored toothpaste, as terrible as all the other flavors in your survival kit.  The taste isn’t enough to remind you of actual fried pieces from a fast-food bucket, but it’s the best you have.

From your perspective, it’s better than starving.

Your brother can’t stand the tubestuff, so he’s been experimenting with other options.  He made his own fire in the middle of the living room floor, and he found some fatty oils to swirl in a deep, cast iron pan.  The oils popped loudly when he dropped floured pieces of meat into the heated pan.

You wonder what shapes these pieces might have:  if they have wings or noses or tails, if they’re strangely weighted clumps with fingers on one end.  You smell the flour crisping in the oil, the meat and juices rising over the open pan, and you try very hard not to remember the taste of chicken.