In most small towns, the biggest and most elegant building on Main Street is the funeral home. Or an old-age home. These buildings always look as if they might be the starring attraction in Stephen King’s next novel.
Once or twice a week, friends and neighbors will show up at our back door with a carton of “extra” eggs. These eggs do not come from free-range chickens. They come from the out-in-the-front-yard, car-dodging, yard-pecking, chase-you-around-the-lawn chickens that everybody with a driveway-sized plot of land seems to be raising at the moment.
Living in small towns and on five-acre ranches has never seemed so Green Acre-ish. And why not? It’s almost cheaper to buy a dozen chicks than a dozen eggs.
And with the chickens come the eggs. Sue and I have gone through about every egg recipe we have ever heard of, and many we haven’t, and we still have eggs left over. It could only be better if our friends would pay us to take their eggs.
“What, shirred eggs again?” I heard myself ask the other morning. I had never heard of them until Sue bought a book called “The Best of English Cooking.” (The good news is that it’s only five pages long. One of the recipes was for spaghetti curry.)
We’ve made every kind of quiche, frittata and custard possible, and we still have eggs. Empty egg cartons are stacking up in our mudroom, next to our winter coats and dirty boots.
This was never a problem when we lived in the city. No one ever dropped by 14th Street to give us their extra eggs, piling up our mudroom with cartons.
Of course, we didn’t have a mudroom. When I told one city friend that our mudroom was getting full he said, “You have an entire room for mud? Must be nice.” I forgot he lives in a fourth-floor walk-up studio apartment smaller than our living room that has a view of a brick wall. But it’s only $3,000 a month plus utilities. Eggs are extra.
Am I worried about my cholesterol by eating so many eggs? Compared to what? Bacon? Sausage? Nachos? Cream cheese? Hot dogs? Hamburgers? Pizza? I think the “egg vs. cholesterol” controversy ship sailed a long time ago. Besides, if you want to sell something, the best way to get people to buy it is to tell people it’s bad for them. Read a grocery store flyer and tell me which items are on sale -- the “healthy” items or the “unhealthy” ones.
But a more interesting question is, why are so many people raising chickens? Is it about money or a lifestyle or both?
I see everything at the grocery store getting more expensive -- I recently paid $1.69 for one good-sized apple and $3.85 for a gallon of gas. But according to the latest government report, our core inflation rate is not rising. Of course, as they have for many years, they don’t count food and gas, the two main things that are rising. Well, why stop there? If they’re not going to count food and gas, they may as well not count rent, tuition, doctor’s bills, cable TV, utilities and clothes. Inflation could be totally eliminated.
So, if you don’t buy anything, the price of nothing has not gone up. Which is good news. No wonder consumer confidence is up -- consumers are confident the price of everything they buy is rising. Which is why they are buying chickens.
Or is the chicken trend so big because we long for days gone by, when life was simpler, when people were more connected to the land, when neighbors did things for each other? If you want that good old-fashioned connection, there’s an app for that. All you have to do is download Poultry Pal from an app store near you. And there’s always an app store near you if you have a smartphone.
But I do wonder what’s next. I know people are putting beehives in their backyards and on their rooftops. But what happens when your next-door neighbor wants to raise his own sheep? Or cows? Or buffalo? I guess it would depend on whether they’re dropping by with “extra” beef or not.
Contact Jim Mullen at jimmullenbooks.com.