A funny tale about family, fine food and friendship.
It was a rather awkward moment for Clare to discover she couldn’t cook. The chicken lay frigid and exposed on the kitchen bench while the baby quail sat stubbornly beside it. Clare held the back of her hand to her forehead, dramatizing her frustration for the benefit of her best friend Jenny.
“What exactly is the problem?” asked Jenny.
“This quail.” Clare jabbed one marinated finger at the smaller bird. “Is supposed to be inside this chicken.”
“Because it’s gourmet.”
Jenny busied herself studying the dining table in order to hide her smirk. “Why do you have a dozen bottles box of sauvignon-blanc? I thought this dinner was just us and your parents.”
“It is. Mum gave me the box of wine.”
“Really? I thought she was always accusing you of being an alcoholic?”
“She doesn’t like to be wrong.”
Jenny replaced the bottle she’d been examining. “At least it’s good wine. Why is there a blood pressure monitor beside the box?”
Clare looked up from poking and prodding the chicken. “Mum is concerned about Dad’s stress levels while he’s visiting me. She left that there as a reminder not to do anything to upset him.”
“I dunno, just being me I guess.”
Jenny guffawed. “I love how close you guys are.”
Clare returned her attention to the birds. “I just don’t know how I’m supposed to get this quail inside the chicken without tearing the bloody thing in half.”
“Have you oiled the quail?” “And the inside of the chicken!”
“What’s the recipe say?”
“What? How the hell do you know what you’re doing?”
“I saw it on some lifestyle show the other week. It looked pretty easy.”
Jenny rolled her eyes. This was typical of her best friend, jumping in and having a go with no safety net. It was little wonder her mother had brought the blood pressure monitor.
“Oh my god. What are you doing now?” Jenny stared wide-eyed as Clare’s fist disappeared inside the chicken. “I’m just trying to make some room.” She grunted each word as her fist squelched in and out of the bird.
Jenny made the sign of the cross.
“Why are you doing that?”
“It seems appropriate. You’re desecrating that poor, dead animal.”
“Oh shut up and help me. Hold the legs apart while I try and get the quail in.”
“Forgive me,” Jenny muttered as she pulled each leg askew.
Stuffing began squirting out of the quail as Clare tried to cram the smaller bird between the chicken’s legs. “Crap! This is impossible.”
“Are you sure it’s a chicken you’re meant to be using? Wouldn’t a turkey be more … spacious?”
Clare paused her attempted insemination, to regard her friend. “Possibly,” she conceded after a moment. “But I don’t have time to get a turkey.”
“So make something else. Roast chicken?”
“No way. My parents are expecting a gourmet experience. I can’t serve up roast chicken.”
Jenny raised her eyebrows but kept her thoughts to herself as Clare poked the stuffing back inside the quail.
“It will fit; I just need to get it inside.” Clare was posing the chicken on the chopping board, hoping for divine inspiration. “If I could just figure out a way to keep the inside of the chicken expanded while I pushed the quail in.”
“Wait a minute! Crazy idea … but it might just work.” Jenny went back to the dining table and picked up the blood pressure monitor. “What if we pumped up the chicken with air?”
Jenny turned the machine over in her hands. “We need to get the hose off the monitor.” She tugged at the rubbing tubing. “It’s glued on pretty tight.”
“Not a problem.” Clare held a pair of scissors aloft.
“Wait! What if your Dad needs to check his blood pressure?”
“I’ll tell Mum she must have lost the machine. Chuck the evidence in the bin. She’ll think she’s losing her mind so it’s a win/win.”
Before Jenny could counter her friend’s logic the scissors snipped the hose from its mooring.
“Okay, you poke the hose through the neck and pump and I’ll stuff this little birdie in.”
“Hang on, the neck is all long and … flaccid. There’s no hole.”
Clare pulled the chicken towards her on the chopping board. She grabbed a knife and started hacking away at the neck.
“Well this is harder than it should be.”
“You’re trying to cut through bones.”
“Oh right.” After another minute of concentrated carving, the neck came free, leaving a hole bigger than the circumference of the hose.
“You’re going to have to hold your fingers around the opening so the air doesn’t escape,” directed Clare.
“Okay.” Jenny inserted the hose into the hole between the wings and dutifully wrapped her fingers over the bird to keep the air in. “Ready?” She started squeezing the pump.
“Maybe we should shorten the hose so the air doesn’t have to travel so far?” Suggested Clare. Leaving a three-inch length, she chopped the hose shorter.
“Let’s try again. I’ll hold the legs closed.”
The girls continued their efforts to expand the chicken and stuff the quail inside for another fifteen minutes. “Clare, we’ve been defeated. I think you’ll have to roast the chicken on its own.”
Clare sighed. “Well that’s just great. Now I’ll have to endure my mother’s ridicule over my interpretation of gourmet.”
“If only you had a tried and true coping mechanism for such inconveniences. Oh wait …” Jenny handed her friend a very full glass of sauvignon-blanc.