Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chicken is a chicken?

Last Friday while we were enjoying our Salvator at the Paulaner am Nockerberg an interesting conversation took place that really got me thinking.

Let me preface this by saying during our Nürnberg trip, Manuel, Brock, and I were discussing the dynamics of language (while this may seem boring it's fitting).

Between the three of us there are 4 languages spoken. There were plenty of pigeons around Nürnberg, which reminded me of a German class I had where we got into a discussion over differences or semantics of language. Pigeon, for example is a pest of a bird that is gray and sometimes has a metallic patch of color, which is it's only redeeming quality in my eyes. A dove on the other hand is a white bird of peace that is more dignified and regal. Enter German, Spanish, and French. They say a pigeon is a dove.

After more Salvator's than I care to admit, the conversation was flowing and low and behold chicken came up. I recalled having a meal at my in-law's house and it was chicken - on a bone, with skin, and not 'white meat'. When I brought up 'white meat' to Stefan he laughed as if his family eats 'dark meat'... um, yes they do and he does too (to each their own).

I typically ask what is included in the meal, because I'm not much of a meat eater and chicken is my limit only if I must. Germans are sometimes sneaky with their meat and nearly every meal has meat. I don't think this is culturally unique to Germany, but since I live there and since they have meat heavy cuisine I really notice it.

During another visit it was another kind of bird that was 'larger than a chicken but smaller than a turkey'. My father in-law pulled out his trusty dictionary and told me it was a 'hen'. To me a hen is merely a female chicken that lays eggs (if there are any farmers reading this feel free to correct me). I know a cornish hen, but it is one of the few named poultry that English speakers have. Whenever we eat there is a dictionary close by.

So back to last Friday. Brock and I were in agreement that while 'white meat' and 'dark meat' is a distinction in English, for once we don't have a word labeling from which bird, gender, or size the meat comes from.

(Please note: This is one of the reasons I don't eat much meat- if any, when I can avoid it... we had a huge döner kebab scandal in Germany where they were using old meat and repackaging, coloring, and altering it for profit. Some of this meat was seriously 4 years old. I believe if people can screw things up, especially for a monetary gain, they will. Meat in my eyes is an area where it's easy to process and reprocess to form things like 'meat bears', which are available for purchase in Germany. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of that, but I will try to smuggle my camera into the grocery for devoted readers. It looks something like the photo above to give you an idea. And below a where döner meat comes from, so you can see how easily it could be tampered with.)

Brock and I were horrified to think that as Americans we really don't know where our meat is coming from - Tyson, Butterball, Hillshire Farm... but from whom does this meat come from? All we knew is that every single chicken McNuggets is shaped like a circle or an 'L' shape - hello processed foods. In English, chicken is simply chicken.

For once English is less specific than German (the second language I'm most familiar with). This may also be attributed to English words not having genders as so many others do.

I was also reminded by Caitlin, that Germany is also passing a law that will give foods that have not been genetically modified a seal to signify you are getting what you always thought you had been buying (shouldn't it be the other way around?). Fortunately we also have Basic, my favorite grocery which is 'bio' or organic.

Hopefully you didn't just read this before lunch, or eat a döner kebab (the scandal was in 2006, so you should be safe if you did).

(image: Peter Carpenter)


Caitlin said...

Ugh...we have those meat bears here too. Seriously disgusting and obviously for children!

Luke said...

Emily, I don't care what you say about doners, they are absolutely delicious.