How you begin is who you are. Only a killer can do it alone; for others, whether you slice, chop or do field surgery, have someone reliable hold the bird by the wings at the shoulders. Grip your very sharp knife or hatchet firmly in your preferred hand and with the other tease the bird’s head forward until its neck is taut against the stump or in the air and swing the blade without thinking and as if there were no bird, quickly up with the knife to sever in one clean cut or swiftly down with the hatchet to cleave through to the block. Yes, they are all watching to see how you choose. The butcher says, I do not kill, I butcher; the customer kills. Those with practice may introduce the knife through the open beak to the back of the throat. The bird will not invite this method, but it will understand. Plunge the blade directly into the brain and do not miss unless you wish to lose a vicious argument. Picture the family gathered at the table. By the feet then hang the bird to drain and consider pillows; will you want the feathers and down, they will need to be dried on paper indoors in thin layers. If so, be careful of the blood. Feel for the wishbone just below the flesh, starting at the shoulder joints, and trace the thin arcs to the sternum, then follow the path with your paring knife, pull it free and make your Christmas wish. Accept no advice except from the bird and your own finger tips. The sloppier the job, the more you are learning; the roasting will cover your errors. Wear the bone on a string for a year and do a better job next time.

Copyright December 23, 2007 David Hodges