Saturday, December 29, 2007

City Chicken Feast

Mr. 4444 and his mom, the City Chicken Mistress of Ceremonies

Mr. 4444 is one of two children. While my clan (my brothers and sisters and their kids and kids' kids) totals more than 45, his includes a whopping 11. However, they do not lack for fun. Since his manager brother works in retail, our Christmas with his family takes place just before New Year’s Eve. We meet at Grandma 4444's house, exchange gifts, and obsess with electronic games for a day or two.

The climax of our time together is the City Chicken Feast. What is City Chicken, you ask? Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger asking this question, for I, too, was in the dark when I attended my first Feast. As long as Mr. 4444 can remember, his mom has made city chicken, which is also known as mock chicken legs. They are made with pork and veal cut in chunks and placed on 5-inch skewers, rolled in cracker crumbs, salt and pepper, browned, and then baked in a big roaster. Mashed potatoes and gravy are staples of the city chicken feast. Each year, there is a family competition to see who can eat the most city chicken "legs."

There is much brouhaha and speculation on the day before the CCF. There are no “teams,” just individual contestants…. Not everyone knows who will become serious competitors until the last minute, but Uncle Mark and Uncle Bob are for-sure contenders. Of course, the women drop out quickly, as none of us eats more than three or four legs. So far, Kyle and his male cousin of around the same age have not seriously entered the competitive action (they've always known they were out of their leagues at this point, but this may be the big year!)

Uncle Bob displays his tally, 2006

Every year, Hubs pretends that he’s not competing. He sits down at the table with a poker face and calmly begins eating as though he were just one of the others; no title at stake. Uncle Bob, too, acts cool, but soon, there is giggling and all eyes dart from one brother to the other to gauge the standings. Sticks are counted, and before long, everyone knows there is a real competition going on.

Most city chicken feasts go off as usual. However, last year, Uncle Bob inspired shouts of “He’s cheating!!” and hysterical laughter when it became evident that he had secretly squirreled away unused sticks before dinner and pretended to try to pass them off as sticks used at the meal. Of course, he did this for entertainment value; if the meal goes by without belly laughs or someone choking from laughing with a mouthful of food, it’s just not normal.

Tonight’s the Big Night. Hubby and his brother will probably politely decline lunch today, claiming “I’m just not that hungry, thanks,” but we will all know that they are getting ready, preparing the way and psyching themselves up for the family entertainment event of the year. I’ll be ring-side, camera in hand, belly full of chicken, and heart full of love.

1 comment:

  1. I love these unique kind of family traditions!! And how nice to have two Christmases... keeps the holiday spirit going!


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