Cel­e­brat­ing Year of Rooster? Chicken? Hen?

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS -

This year is the year of ji ac­cord­ing to the Chi­nese zo­diac that fea­tures 12 an­i­mals. Chi­nese words are made up of char­ac­ters which func­tion like root words in English. A sin­gle char­ac­ter is usu­ally am­bigu­ous in mean­ing. In the Year of the Ox, for in­stance, we were de­bat­ing whether it should be the year of the bull, the cow, the heifer, or the steer. The choice has a lot to do with age, gen­der, as well as sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in­volv­ing tes­ti­cles. The word ji cre­ates sim­i­lar dif­fi­cul­ties, al­though per­haps not the Year of the Cock, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, but how about chicken, hen, or rooster?

My first choice would be rooster. These zo­diac signs are all about sym­bol­ism if you ask me, though there are peo­ple who be­lieve that, be­cause you are born in a mon­key year, you mon­key around do­ing mon­key busi­ness. I don’t be­lieve it. Just as I don’t be­lieve that do­gyear peo­ple bite, bark or pee near a fire hy­drant. Roost­ers fare bet­ter onmy sym­bol­ism scale. In Chi­nese, “ris­ing to the crow of the rooster” is a sign of a “gritty”, hard-work­ing per­son. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent psy­cho­log­i­cal find­ings, such peo­ple are the salt of the earth. For this rea­son alone, I had hoped I could raise a rooster inmy back­yard, but home­owner as­so­ci­a­tion by­laws and city or­di­nances do not en­cour­age it. I will down­load a cock-adoo­dle-doo ring­tone in­stead.

Call­ing 2017 the Year of the Chicken would also work. Chicken com­monly refers to some­one lack­ing courage in English, but I have found the im­age of chick­ens is be­ing re­ha­bil­i­tated, and it can even mean courage to pur­sue a good life, as shown in the movie Chicken Run. As a trans­la­tor, when asked what the nov­els I have trans­lated have in com­mon, I say most of them have a char­ac­ter who tries to raise chick­ens. Rais­ing chick­ens brings us back to a sim­pler time when peo­ple grow their own food in­stead of de­pend­ing on food whose price in­cludes trans­porta­tion and mar­ket­ing costs along with ex­ec­u­tives’ salaries.

Chicken is also one ofmy fa­vorite foods. Around me, within a 3-mile ra­dius, we have KFC, Golden Chick, Wingstop, Buf­falo Wild Wings, Chick-fil-A, in ad­di­tion to many other restau­rants that serve chicken dishes. I live in the chicken cap­i­tal of the world. I won­der how many chicken die ev­ery day to keep all these restau­rants open. Un­like pork or beef, chicken is not restricted by any ma­jor world re­li­gions, ex­cept Bud­dhism, which pro­hibits the eat­ing of any an­i­mal prod­ucts. That does not change the equi­lib­rium of con­sump­tion.

In ru­ral China, when a guest comes, the hosts will kill a rooster or hen to serve as a main dish. Farm­ers raise a lim­ited num­ber of roost­ers or hens, and chicken eggs are an im­por­tant source of nu­tri­tion for the fam­ily; one should not take such hos­pi­tal­ity for granted. When I first came to Amer­ica as a poor grad­u­ate stu­dent, I found chicken to be a very cheap gro­cery buy. I of­ten cooked a whole bunch of chicken wings or legs at one time which would last me sev­eral days. If we are what we eat, I should have grown feath­ers by now. When I went back home, my mo­ma­gain had a hen killed for me. I told her I have had a lot of

chicken al­ready. My­mom­said: “But it is home­grown!” She was right. She al­ways is. Chicken is the food for the or­di­nary men and women, whether they are the farm­ers in China who let their chick­ens roam wild, or an of­fice worker who watches the Cow­boys play the Pack­ers on the TV, while nib­bling salt and vine­gar chicken wings. I would also call 2017 the Year of theHen for the same rea­son. In ad­di­tion to hens that be­come food, think of all the eggs we eat, boiled, poached or scram­bled, in cakes, bur­ri­tos, casseroles, egg drop soups, or even pasta with but­tered egg sauce. We should show proper re­spect for all these hens and eggs. Their lives mat­ter. If this ar­ti­cle makes you so guilty that you want to con­vert to a ve­gan life­style, do it. It is hon­or­able if you do, and may help to re­sus­ci­tate yourNew Year res­o­lu­tion to be­come a bet­ter per­son with the com­ing of the Lu­narNewYear. How­ever, for the rest of us who still rel­ish some fried chicken, do these feath­ered friends a fa­vor by not wast­ing any of your food— and, of course, eat less chicken. The en­vi­ron­ment will thank you, the chick­ens will too. Happy Year of the Rooster, Chicken, Hen, how­ever you want to call it.

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