It's an unfortunate side effect of having access to the occasional real chicken that the chicken at the grocery store becomes somewhat appalling. Not just because of the abstract idea of the conditions those chickens are kept in before slaughter (abstract to me because I've never seen one of those battery chicken operations), but because of the undeniable fact that grocery store chicken is nothing like a real chicken when it comes to eating. The texture is different (store chicken is mushy in comparison), and the taste is pretty much incomparable.
So I have become spoiled when it comes to chicken.
That's not to say, however, that I don't realize the advantage of a grocery store chicken. And that advantage (singular--it's the only way in which the store chicken has the edge) is ease of preparation. Even if you buy a whole chicken at the store and cut it up yourself, it's nothing like trying to break down an old rooster that's been running around eating bugs.
Store chickens are soft. Even their bones. You can cut through the bones of a store chicken with a big knife. But a real chicken requires some forceful whacking with a meat cleaver. And then you have to pick off all the little hair-like feathers all over the meat. So the blithe initial instruction in a chicken recipe to "Cut chicken into six or eight pieces" becomes a significantly more involved endeavor.
We're having Chicken Cacciatore tonight made with a rooster given to us by the MiL's brother. The hacking and the plucking are all done, and the chicken is simmering away. The inconvenience will be forgotten with the first bite of dinner, I know. Because it's worth it. Good food always is.
* For Zoe, who wondered if I had ever thought of not peeling potatoes . . . I am aware that this is many people's preference, but it's not for me. The skins of waxy red potatoes are okay--thin enough not to be displeasing--but the Russet-style potatoes I cook with almost exclusively have thick skins that are totally unappealing to me when cooked with the rest of the potato. Plus, our own garden potatoes are usually so filthy that peeling the dirt away with the skin is the easiest way to get them clean.