We had chicken and dumplings for dinner tonight.
All day long, I was under the impression that we would be having chicken livers and vegetables for dinner. I was…a bit creeped out by the livers idea, and was just going to skip that and have a bagel or something.
But then I decided to interrogate my mom to find out just how different chicken livers are to the parts of the chicken we usually eat. How were the flavors and textures different? For that matter, what part of the chicken did we usually eat, anyway?
“Mom, what part of the chicken is the meat?”
“…It’s…the meat. What do you mean?”
“Yeah, I know, but what part is it? Is it muscle?”
“No, it’s not muscle.”
“Well, is it like liver?”
“Liver is an organ.”
“So meat doesn’t come from organs?”
“Well, so what’s meat? What exactly is a chicken leg? I mean, it’s not muscle, and it’s not skin….”
“But what is meat? What is a chicken leg? Is ‘meat’ the scientific term for it?”
“I don’t know what the scientific term is; but it’s just like with every other animal. We always eat the meat—cows, chickens, sheep….”
“I know that, but what is the meat? Do I have meat on me? Is it attached to the skin?” Here I attempted to pull the skin on my leg away from the bone and prodded around looking for the “meat”.
“Yes, you have meat, just a little bit.”
I knew I must; otherwise, what the hell do cannibals eat?
“But what is—[I interrupted myself and changed tactics]—if I showed you a picture of the human body, could you point out the meat?”
This question induced laughter from my mother, who never was able to explain the concept of meat. So I decided to find out more about liver.
“It’s squishy,” she said, “and you can mash it up to make liverwurst.”
“That’s what liverwurst is? Mashed liver?”
“What did you think it was?”
“I thought it was just some weird German word that randomly had the word ‘liver’ stuck to the beginning! I didn’t know it was…mashed liver…yuck. So it tastes different?”
“Yes, it tastes darker.”
“Is it really bloody?”
“No, it’s not bloody.”
“Is there any blood in it at all?”
“Is it what McNuggets are made of?”
“Are there bits of it in McNuggets?”
“Does it have urine in it, or is that kidneys?”
“That’s the bladder.”
“Oh…right. Well…I don’t think I want to eat any…chicken paste.”
So then, when everything was cooked at last, my mom went and got a bowl, and I looked grudgingly at her bowl and said, “All right, I’ll taste the chicken paste,” and she held out her fork so I could try it, and I said, “But it looks just like regular chicken!”
Turns out, it was regular chicken; my dad hadn’t cooked the liver yet.