Roasting a chicken with Julia Child

I've been thinking about roasting a whole chicken for a while. I know that's totally weird, but it became this, like, symbol of domesticity that I felt I had to overcome. I'd made plenty of things in the kitchen - both well and poorly - but I'd never roasted a whole animal. Vegetarians, I'm sure, will find this desire of mine barbaric, and those adept in culinary skills might find it juvenile, but I wanted to do it, and I figured the best way would be to dive in headfirst and use Julia Child's recipe in her classic cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." First, of course, I had to buy a whole chicken and that turned out to be my initial challenge. I've never bought an entire chicken, not a raw one anyway, and I found myself standing in the meat department at Whole Foods the other day trying to look really knowledgeable so that the guy behind the counter wouldn't suspect anything. Like that I was scared. I asked what I felt was a reasonable question ("These chickens? They're all good for roasting?"), picked out a roughly three-pound bird (from a local farm, even!) and checked out, very pleased with myself.

When I got home I opened up "Mastering the Art..." and attempted to summon Child herself by pouring myself a glass of red wine and getting familiar with the ingredients. The recipe was simple enough, just required constantly checking on things in the oven and a lot of basting, another thing I'd never done before. But I could baste, no problem, I figured, especially as Julia Child's basting a chicken involves lots of butter and I rarely allow myself to cook with that much butter. Tonight all calorie restraints were off, I decided.

For the next part I had to summon all my courage, because the next part involved putting my hands inside the chicken to spread salt and butter and I was really, seriously worried about what I'd find in there. Sure enough, upon peeking into the cavity I spotted something pink, surely the neck or lungs or whatever else those insane butchers like to put inside chickens when they cut them up. I know lots of people like to use this stuff when they make broth or stock or whatever, but I like to buy stock and broth in cans. More importantly, I was afraid to touch it or look at it, so I grabbed the nearest pair of tongs, stood as far away as possible and started prodding, hoping maybe that grotesque neck piece would just fall out, right into the trash can.

This was about the time J walked in and I had to explain that he "better get out of the kitchen" because I had to deal with some gizzards and I knew he didn't want to see it. He just smiled and asked if I would rather he do it and, believe me, I did, so I dropped the tongs and ran as fast as I could into the the other room screaming while he did the deed with his hands - WITH HIS HANDS - calling out to me whenever he found something new ("I think this is the liver") as I cowered behind the laundry basket.

Once that was over (I had to wait until J told me it was ok to return, all evidence of the incident in safely ensconced in a garbage bag) things, actually, went pretty smoothly. I got the chicken into a roasting pan with some onions. I browned it and stood by, setting the kitchen timer religiously, to baste it every eight to 10 minutes. I looked for signs that, according to Julia, meant it was sufficiently cooked and I even made some somewhat complex side dishes while I waited.

This, it turned out, was my downfall, my Icarus moment if you will, for in attempting to be too great I, at the last moment, clearly overwhelmed by the enormity my mission of making a simple roast chicken and some green beans and mashed potatoes had become, I thoughtlessly placed a Pyrex dish on the stovetop, which just so happened to be on, and while getting ready to bring dinner to the table I heard a huge explosion, and glass flew everywhere. Because, you know, Pyrex doesn't go on the stovetop. It even says so right on every piece of Pyrex.

Luckily, the glass hit neither J nor I and after we'd swept up the big, dangerous looking shards from the floor, we decided the major cleanup could wait until after we ate. Thus, disaster (in the form of my flinging myself down on the bed and proclaiming that "I can't do anything right!") was avoided, as the chicken was good. It tasted like, you know, roast chicken. I'd completed a goal, and as small as it was, and despite the fact that I'd caused a piece of cookware to shatter into about a trillion pieces in the process, I felt one step closer to becoming, on some strange level, an accomplished person.