I went to White Spot recently with my boyfriend, his parents and his visiting aunt and uncle. I usually order the same thing every time I go, but decided that day to try something new. Salad. I chose one with a tomato icon beside it – indicating that it was vegetarian. The waitress took my order and asked if I’d like to add chicken to that.
“No. No chicken”. And then I worried I’d sounded excessively forceful.
The salad showed up a while later, nestled in a huge, folded tortilla bowl, and thoroughly laced with chicken. I explained that I hadn’t ordered it with chicken and the waitress apologized, saying she’d get me a new, and whisked it away into the kitchen.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been fond of chicken meat. There’s a certain smell that reminds me of those days on the farm all those years ago when, as a child, I helped my family pluck chickens in the garage. The smell of damp, hot feathers and chicken skin hung in the air, limiting my enjoyment of chicken from that day on to a very few dishes. The final feather came 11 years ago; in the high heat of summer, a transport truck heading for a Vancouver chicken processing plant and loaded with filthy, disheveled birds, pulled up beside the bus I was riding in and enveloped it in a reeking cloud. The smell was nauseating. Deciding then and there that I no longer needed to be party to the process, I stopped eating chicken completely.
The waitress arrived, with the ‘new’ salad.
“This is a fresh salad. No chicken.” she said, putting it down in front of me and rushing over to the other side of the table to deliver drinks to my boyfriend’s parents.
I looked at the salad. The enormous tortilla boat curved upwards from the plate like a thin-lipped mouth, gagged with tousled salad. The edge of the mouth was missing a curved chunk, coincidentally much the same size and shape as its predecessor. The bottom edge of the tortilla angled up a bit, partially concealing a piece of chicken that had escaped the removal efforts of the kitchen staff and lay, like a section of accusing finger, beneath it on the plate.