D’s Phrase of the Week: Food City Chicken!

I was sitting in front of the TV at home with my mom, watching Larry King Live.

The subject: that creepy polygamist Warren Jeffs, who’s just graced the FBI’s Most Wanted List. (Personally, I hope they find him and string him up by his toenails.)

As Larry was talking with each of the guests, the show interspersed some visuals related to the story, including file pictures of the homely bugger himself – obviously taken at the local portrait studio at different points throughout the years.

“Ugh,” I said. “What an ugly man.”

My mom shuddered in agreement. “What a young mackerel,” she said. “A Food City Chicken, that one.”

I let out a laugh, as I hadn’t heard that one in a while.

If you grew up in Ontario – in my case, suburban Toronto – in the 1980s, you’ll know that Food City was a supermarket chain. (It eventually was gobbled up by a larger chain — I think A&P, but I’d have to check that out.)

Going to the supermarket on grocery day, your mom — if she wasn’t vegetarian — would at some point have eventually ended up in the meat section. Cuts of pork, beef and chicken, all neatly arranged in that huge cooler thing they had, divided according to types of meat.

In the chicken section, you had your packaged chicken parts, but also your whole chicken. And of that whole chicken, there were two varieties.

There was the hearty, plump, thick, juicy chicken that’d make your mouth water just thinking about what it would taste like cooked. (My mouth’s watering just recalling it.) Most shoppers snapped this meat up without a second thought.

And then … there was the Food City Chicken: the puniest, homeliest, wimpiest looking chicken around. This was obviously a piece of poultry that, when alive, was too scared to eat in the hopes it wouldn’t meet its slaughter, but it did anyway — resulting in the meatless, emaciated wonder sitting in the meat cooler before you. These were the types of chicken my mom probably looked at, picked up, looked over, and glanced at the price tag before slightly turning up her nose and tossing it back with the other sad fowl.

And it was especially bad on grocery days when this section was half-empty and the meat guys hadn’t yet rolled out with the big metal tubs of the newest meats, ’cause chances are whatever was left was the oldest, about-to-expire cuts of chicken … and The Food City Chicken. Shoppers who were picky either circled around until the meat guys laid out the newest cuts, or waited until one of them would come out from the back and ask if they had anything new. They would do ANYTHING, except take the Food City Chicken.

So if you ever hear myself or anyone like me call someone as a Food City Chicken, go ahead and laugh if you’re not on the receiving end … and be very concerned if you are.


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