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September 2013

132. Tastes Like Chicken

Have you ever noticed that the phase, "Tastes like chicken" seems to be the most repeated phrase in the English language?  Well, maybe not but then again, never let an exageration stand in the way of a good story.

That phrase however does seem to be the standard by which all "mystery meat" is judged and is often used for comparitive purposes.  Just the other day on a Face Book page that is used by the subdivision I live in, someone made a post about how their front yard had been dug up in the middle of the night by a pack of wild hogs.  Well, we do live next to a wilderness area that is probably a couple of thousand acres in size but I seriously doubt that a pack of feral hogs came through the guard gate at the front of the subdivision, walked down the main street to his yard, rooted around a bit and then left the same way, all without being seen by anyone or at least barked at by the neighbor canines.

I commented on his post that it was likely an armadillo since I've seen them walking around the neighbors' yards before and indeed, I have my own armadillo problems and have to put out repellant to prevent them from digging up my grass as they search for that tasty grub for their dinner plate.

One thing led to another and I ended up posting a recipe for how to cook roast armadillo; a culinary treat common to South Texas and Northern Mexico .... a little garlic, a little chili powder, some cumino and of course ... bacon to keep it moist and juicy and give it a little more flavor.

So of course (of course), during the series of posts and comments by a couple of dozen people calling for everything from organizing a feral hog-hunt to whether or not we're allowed to discharge .300 Remington Magnums in the neighborhood to bringing in tracking dogs to feret out the armadillos to what to have as a side dish with the armadillo someone asked that magic question, that question that is the foodie equivalent of "42", to wit, "Does it taste like chicken"?

So there you go.  The way to find out how something/everything tastes.  Compare it to chicken.

So why "chicken"?  Why not, "So does it taste like artichoke"?  Or how about, "Does it taste like nutra rat or speckled trout or red cabbage"?

I had to ponder on that one for about as long as it took to knock back a double scotch on the rocks and voila!  It suddenly struck me like slap in the face with a dirty tail feather.

The Gods of the Universal Creation of Everything and Everything Beyond That gave us a benchmark by which all else can be judged and evaluated.  Does It Taste Like Chicken and if so, how?  Something easy, common and universally accessible.  Something we all know well.

Notice how useful this benchmarking comparison is and how it is used in the foodie decision making process ...... 

  • No, it tastes nothing like chicken (so do I really want to try this mystery meat that looks like it has little feelers still moving around in the air)
  • Yes, it tastes a little like chicken (ok, then I may try it out by starting with a small bite just to see before I really dig in)
  • Yes, it tastes like chicken but it's much tougher (alright then, it's likely range fed which means it may be a little gamey and stringy but edible none-the-less .... darn "greenies" ... why can't they buy their chicken at the store like the rest of us and get something a little more tender and tasty)
  • Yes, it tastes a little like chicken but it's a little milder/stronger (ok, it's safe within tolerable limits so maybe if I put some salt on it and a little peach salsa we can choke this down, now what are having for aperitif's to prepare for this "bird-fest" ... I need to build my appetite first)
  • Yes, it's the best bird ever (ah HA! .... it must be southern fried chicken with that scrumptous crispy crust, lets scoop out the mashed potatoes and gravy and pour the sweet tea, we're having a feast)

Do you see?  Using the taste of chicken as a benchmark by which to judge other food has universal value and utility.  Why would anyone compare food to the taste of broccolli or rutabaga when you can use chicken as the universal benchmark instead.  Heck, I bet you that cave-bound monks in Tibet who haven't seen daylight since they hit puberty use the taste of chicken in determining whether or not they want to try a taste of that "thing" sitting on the plate in front of them.  (Caves are dark you see .... or don't see).

So "benchmark chicken" has value ............... just like kihon and basic kata that teaches bunkai and fundamental principles.

Bet you thought I was never going to get to the martially-artsy part of this did you?

If The Gods of the Universal Creation of Everything and Everything Beyond That gave us chicken by which we can judge whether or not to eat that "blob" sitting on the plate in front of us, or that's flying around the campfire, or that's twitching on the spit over the glowing coals then it's simply logical to assume that the Gods of Budo and How To Kick Max-Booty would give us the same kind of benchmark by which to judge and evaluate advanced kata and other such ninja-esque ideas.

This is called fundamental principles as applied by properly structured kihon and basic kata; the "Budo Chicken Benchmark" as-it-were.

By keeping your principles clean, by not changing the basic waza and kihon every 5 seconds in order to fit some "new idea" of exploration, by following the fundamentals religiously and strictly (erect posture, unbendable arm, hands in pushing position, move on the balls of the feet, sliding feet, knees bent, eyes focused/unfocused, proper breathing, lines of off  balance, sen, distance, angle and timing) then if someone shows us some "magic" idea that looks good on the surface then we can pull out our "Budo Chicken" and use it as a benchmark by which to judge that bill of goods being sold to us.  We can decide to "consume" that new Budo-Stuff or simply ignore it as simply being one more bad plate of food that should be thrown out.

How much material do you see on the internet that has NO value (but that looks good or  "pretty")?

How much of your own art form (Tomiki Ryu Aikido in my case) do you see on the internet that is just garbage whereby someone takes a clean technique/waza and "experiments" on it until it's just no longer anything recognizable or useful.

How do you judge whether or not that "thing" you see on the internet is even close to what it should be?  Easy.  Pull out your "Budo Chicken Benchmark" (kihon and basic waza) and use the benchmark.  If what you are looking at has no fundamental similiarity to the benchmark then it has no value.  So throw it out like the salmonella-infested chicken carcass that it is and look for something that truly "tastes like chicken".

OK.  Time for brunch.  Think I'll pull out that BBQ chicken I grilled last night and be creative with my spices.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei, Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

July 2013