Saturday, July 25, 2009

Don't Fence Me In

Question: How do you discipline a chicken?

This may seem like an out-of-the-blue question considering my lengthy absence. Working in the wine shop and bartending, moving in with Ben and adopting two new chickens has this Brooklyn Peasant tackling problems never before contemplated: How do you juggle two jobs, marry two kitchens, and more importantly, how do you protect your beloved egg laying chickens from a family of pesky raccoons? Lets just say that in my struggle to answer these questions, I have exhausted my search engine, entertained bar regulars with weekly poultry updates, needs have been met, and questions have been answered...all but one that is.

Combining Ben's kitchen and mine turned out to be easier than I had originally expected. Because together we turned out to have two of many kitchen utensils and appliances, we simply gave a few things away. Two friends of mine inherited my Cuisinart, and my soon to be ex-roommate, after a mini sharpening lesson, inherited some knifes, a steal, silverware, and some pots and pans.

The raccoons, though persistent, were easy to handle. Some two-by-fours, chicken wire, and some green paint was all we needed to keep our prized chick-a-dees from the clutches of the insatiable raccoons. Of course we did feel bad having to fence the girls in,
(See how Sad Buzz looks.)
and so we resolved to let them romp the yard freely on weekends and holidays when we would be around to guard them from potential predators.

This seemed to work just fine for a few weeks. Saturday morning the girls would wake us with their hungry squawks and we would stumble out sleepily to open the coop door. Out they would run as fast as their wirey little chicken feet could carry them and as Ben and I hammered away at the second story flooring,
the girls were free to scratch their way threw the back yard, eating pebbles and rolling around in the dirt to stay cool. During the week, Buzz would demand food and or attention in the morning and for the most part we would oblige her, but she was always quieted when we would come out to say hello and feed her a tasty treat of dried cranberries. We just thought that she was a super friendly chicken with out of the ordinary social needs. Little did we know we had created a monster.

It all started a week ago when Buzz woke us at 6am with squawks so load we figured she must be getting mauled by and intruding animal. Well there was no intruder. As we rushed outside to rescue our dear little chick, there she stood on the other side of the fencing, glaring at us with disdain. Though we fed her and gave her attention, her cries could not be extinguished. We did everything, we talked to her comfortingly, we yelled at her in English and then in Spanish, we even threw water at her, but she would quiet down only long enough to peck at the wire fencing that stood between her and freedom. Over the next week Buzz would wake us every morning with her murderous cries. On Buzz's mornings off Auntie, her feathered counterpart, would take the floor with her raspy chirps. Somehow, by answering every cry, and by giving the girls a taste of freedom, we had created little monsters. So here we are, back to my original question, How DO you discipline a chicken? Only when this question is answered will Ben and I get a full nights sleep.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Feefee Monster and The Coffee Fanatic Redux

I admit it. I am a coffee fanatic, a coffee geek, and a coffee snob. I love coffee so much that I am excited about my morning cup when I go to sleep the night before. French roast, American roast, French press, drip, espresso, cappuccino, with whole milk, skim, or half and half any which way is fine with me as long as I get it strong and hot. The first thing I do upon rising is to participate in my brewing ritual. I grind, I brew, and I always heat my mug – something I picked up from my mother. I dream of the day they invent a “Coffee Robot” that will brew coffee to my liking and wheel it in to me first thing in the morning saying, with electronic intonation, “Here is your coffee…Madeline.” I owe most of my fanaticism to my mother for getting me addicted at the ripe young age of two. There I sat in my high chair, reaching with delight for my morning fix, a tippy-cup filled with five parts milk and one part coffee, what I called my “feefee.” (i was to young to say the whole word!) Until the explosive morning when my mother forgot to add the one part coffee to my milk, she was entirely unaware of the fact that she had created a feefee monster. I threw my tippy-cup on the floor. I kicked, I screamed, I cried, “FEFEEEEE, FEFEEEE!!” She had had no idea just how bad my addiction had become. She eventually weaned me off the caffeine, but by age twelve I was drinking a cappuccino before school every morning.

Why am I telling you this? Well, partially because it is one of my favorite stories to tell, and partly because I want you to take me very seriously when I tell you that you should forever buy your coffee from Empire Coffee & Tea co. They are truly the best roasters around. Many others, claiming to be serious about their coffee, will tell you to buy from Puerto Rican Coffee co. PR Coffee co. my ass! Okay, perhaps that was a little harsh. PR’s coffee is good coffee, but it is maybe my second or third choice. More often than not their beans taste bitter and burnt. Empire’s coffee is simply better. Maybe its because they roast in small batches, or maybe its because they have been doing it with love for 91 years, who knows why . The store is located on 9th avenue in the forties and is nothing fancy. There are two couches in the front and sacks of coffee and jars of tea in the back. You can buy your coffee by the pound, or have a fresh brewed cup and biscotti from the counter. I have been going there for about 15 years now, and the staff has always been incredibly nice, it’s actually almost bizarre how nice- this is NY after all. If ninth ave and 42nd is too out of the way for you, you can order their coffee online. The web sight is a little wacky and easy to navigate, after you fill out you order form you can leave a comment, or “ you could write some poetry if you like.” I left a bit of Pablo Neruda the last time I ordered.
So if you yourself are a coffee snob, or just interested in becoming one check out Empire Coffee & Tea co. online or at their store locations:

568 9th ave (41st-42nd streets)
nyc, ny, 10036
(212) 268- 1220
(800) 262- 5908