Man's world

In which our green-thumbed, five-starred and hat­ted South­ern man pro­vides a recipe… both for food and for liv­ing.

NZ Gardener - - Content -

Joe Bennett shares his recipe for chicken – and, per­haps, life.

Want a recipe? Of course you do. Ev­ery­one wants a recipe. You’re not go­ing to cook it. You’re just go­ing to drool. That’s what recipes are for. There’s a TV chan­nel de­voted to mak­ing peo­ple drool. Food TV it’s called. It makes mil­lions from drool. It makes mil­lion­aires from drool. Lisp­ing Jamie. In­dul­gent Nigella. I don’t even need to give sur­names. I heard Nigella in­ter­viewed on the ra­dio re­cently. The in­ter­viewer grov­elled, pros­trated her­self, protested her own un­wor­thi­ness to con­duct the in­ter­view, tossed dirt on her own skull. “Your won­drous­ness,” she said, when she re­gained the power of speech, “you’re a su­per­star.” Nigella did not de­mur. And all from a bit of cook­ing. All from recipes.

So here’s mine. Mil­lion­aire­hood, here we do not come. For I lack, you un­der­stand, the in­sin­cer­ity, the huck­ster’s heart. I am held back by the ball and chain of virtue. Ah well. I shall at least lie straight in my pau­per’s grave.

The recipe: Herbed bird with but­ter. Whoa, con­trol that sali­va­tion. Dab that drool. Pay at­ten­tion. Here are the in­struc­tions that you’re never go­ing to fol­low.

Buy a chook. I got a free range one by mis­take. The cun­ning free-rangers had shoved it into a sim­i­larly coloured leak-proof dou­ble-skinned plas­tic sac to the one that the fac­tory farm­ers use. By the time I no­ticed, I was at the check­out. The er­rant bird was $12. A fac­tory one was $9. Reader, I bought it. It felt like putting three bucks in a col­lec­tion box. But in­stead of get­ting a poppy I’d get, I hoped, a bird that tasted of lib­erty.

Spatch­cock the bird. To do this, take it out of the bag, lay it on its front so it looks at its most an­thro­po­mor­phous, hack the length of its spine with kitchen scis­sors, wrench open its ribcage, flip it over and then flat­ten it by plac­ing the heel of your hand on the point of its ster­num and lean­ing. Your spatch is now cocked. You are ready for the good bit. Go cut herbs.

Al­ways grow herbs out­doors – never on the win­dowsill. That way, fetch­ing them in feels like a gus­ta­tory ex­pe­di­tion, a green for­age, a chest-puff­ing raid on the world. Cut some of all the herbs you’ve got: oregano, basil, tar­ragon, pars­ley, sage, rosemary, si­mon, gar­funkel, the lot. Cut a fist­ful, a great fat bunch, a bou­quet of pun­gency. As you bring them into the house, walk slow and walk tall like a war­rior re­turn­ing. Hold the herbs high. Try to be seen. You grew them. You cut them. You are bring­ing them in. You have pro­vided. If we do not sing our own an­thems in this life, there is no-one who will sing them for us. Chop the herbs with your most spec­tac­u­lar kitchen knife, the one that would bring gasps from a jury. And as you go to it, bend low over the blade, draw in the an­cient fra­grances, the aro­mat­ics as old as cook­ing it­self. This is good. But­ter. Ounces of but­ter. Press the herbs into it with the back of a spoon. The but­ter will soften. The herbs will juice. You get green­speck­led gold. Anoint the bird. Smear it. Go to it with both hands. Wedge but­ter in and up and un­der. Rub it in, rub it over. This is about the do­ing and the be­ing, the in­dul­gence. Roast the bird golden. Roast the bird crisp. Let it stand for as long as you can with­out pick­ing at it. Then pick at it, with fork or fin­gers, friends or dogs. Herbed bird with but­ter – din­ner for god.

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