One morning, years ago, as I was driving my youngest sister, C, to school, I looked in the rear view mirror and asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She thought it through. I thought too. Mostly about her as a baby, how I loved watching her grow up. Her toddler-age love affair with gnawing on sticks of butter. Girl after my own heart. What does someone who, yesterday, was dressed as a Teletubby, want to do with her life? I lowered the volume on the radio, heaven forbid the Pussycat Dolls influence her career contemplation.
She looked down, examined her blue polish, looked up, and squarely said, “a forensic scientist.”
I don’t know what I was expecting her to say. Probably something more along the lines of what I was dreaming to be: a singer. I had just told her about my future. Touring the world, writing songs, singing my little heart out, making sure that my rider was less obscene than J.Lo’s. I might have even given her the dimensions to my someday mansion.
Maybe I wanted her to watch less CSI and more Dawson’s Creek. Be like Joey Potter. Whatever she did, I just didn’t want her to grow up. I hoped she’d stay young and idealistic forever. Put Now and Then on repeat and Sugar Sugar on an endless loop.
I’ve never wanted to grow up. Not once. Even when being older would have been a one way ticket to paradise, I wanted to stay put. Maybe all kids who grow up fast and are adults before their time idealize the same forever youth. We should all build a commune, live like the Brady’s we wished we were. Dibs on Marsha.
Roasting a whole chicken is a sign that I’ve grown up. Only adults do things like basting, checking temperatures in birds’ unmentionables, and carving. And they practice that awful thing, patience.
It’s actually a perk of being big. All my years of watching Miss J trill about the art of French cooking, and the perfectly prepared chicken, and now I can emulate her. Pearls, curls, and all. Still Punky Brewster on the inside, though.
You grow up being fed and now you become the feeder. It’s beautiful, really. The sense of satisfaction that comes from making others smile, even if only through their bellies. Maybe cooking has become my singing. The chance to express myself and affect others, only in a less obscene and narcissistic way. I should cook in sequins unitards and set up spotlights in my kitchen, paint the walls dayglo at the very least. That way I’ll feel like I thought I would at 25: a superstar singer…with a baster.
Perfectly Roasted Chicken
(inspired by EatLikeMe)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Use paper towels to thoroughly dry a 4-5 lb whole chicken. You want it as dry as possible.
Rub olive oil all over the bird, maybe 2-3 tablespoons. Then sprinkle it generously with salt.
Slice one large Vidalia onion into thick rounds and place them in the bottom of a dutch oven or roasting pan. The onions will act as a natural elevator for the chicken, so that it’s not stewing in its own juices.
Set the pan, uncovered, on the lowest rack of your oven and roast for about 1 hour and 45 minutes (for a 4-5lb bird), or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest, meatiest part of the chicken reads 165°F.
Let the chicken stand for 20 minutes or so, to rest and retain its juices, then carve and serve.