The Killing of a Chicken

I was with my parents, walking on Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto, south of College Street--where the Toronto Chinatown is today. I am talking about 40 years ago. It is the general area of what is still, I think, called Kensington Market.

Walking among open displays of animals, grains, anything and everything it seems in memory, we came upon crates--rectangular cages, really--of chickens piled up to at least my height. There was the noise of chickens cackling, and feathers flying.

This happened quite suddenly, for the market--as any market--was alive with noises, smells, sights, a joyful chaos. Out of the pleasant buzz, I was confronted by a man holding a struggling chicken by its legs. It made acrobatic swings in its doomed attempt to escape the inevitable. He took out a hacksaw, it seemed to me, and sliced a hole in the chicken's jugular. And the blood dripped out. The chicken struggled less and less. . .

I don't remember if I was horrified, or scared. As an adult, my mother told me that I watched it solemnly, and than asked her never to bring it up--ever. They never did.

The reason I am thinking of it today, I am preparing a casserole of chicken thighs, and one is red with blood, as they occasionally are.

I always thought this had something to do with making the slaughter of a chicken kosher; something to do with the blood being unclean, and having to be kept away from people.

This image comes to me sometimes.

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