The year of the rooster has begun. I would typically be pleased to think of it as the year of the cockerel, as well, but just as Billy Collins wrote in his poem about living in the moment—just not this particular moment—I would if I could choose a different year, a past year or somewhere vaguely off in the future, four years from now or so, to have as mine.
I love the brilliant roosters Picasso inspired, and would like to see them as my augury, if that's not tempting fate. Le coq again by choice not d'or, not the golden cockerel, but giddily colored, a little lopsided, possessed of reggae rhythm or ragtime syncopation, instigator of barnyard cock-ups and inspired kookiness. Roosters as jaunty and individualistic as my friend Fleur's chocolate brown chickens who are fed scraps of chard & manchego pizza and strut around the patio and under the immense old Banyan tree showing off swaths of handsome turquoise feathers from a recent tangle—or tango—with wet house paint.
Years ago in that house in Hawi I wrote about waking to the sound of a rooster, for the first time since Greece, and then a mockingbird in the same cadence. I'd have my breakfast at the green table out in the yard, looking at the pastures just beyond the loose barbed wire fence behind, where a buckskin with black mane and tail, tethered, grazed—pastures upswept by wind, thick, luscious green, climbing gently to old abandoned macadamia nut orchards, and eventually to the rain forests which once irrigated North Kohala's sugar cane.
Another year, we celebrated Chinese New Year in Kona, finding ourselves there at the same time as a long-lost friend from high school and her family. We had a lovely dinner at a long table under the palms, with sea turtles in the shallows just off the sandy beach. We drank rum and fruit juices and watched the sun set into the ocean and with the coming of the dark the Chinese dragons insinuate their way among the tables, fed red envelopes for luck. They swooped and shot up tall again, as the drum pulse moved them. We were eleven, a congenial number: four children, two elders, the perfect gathering. (Another of those festivals that were.)
So may my cockerel be a lucky bird, the fire rooster on its best behavior. And if it isn't, we might turn it fast into this dish whose description has amused me, which would feed a happy crowd:
In a terra-cotta marmite, greased with finely chopped pork fat, simmer an old rooster with some carrots and onions. Perfume the bird with garlic, parsley, thyme and bay, and baste with olive oil from Aix, and later with a glass or two of brandy. With this first cockerel of the New Year serve a dozen partridges to represent the 12 months of the year, 30 fried eggs for the days of the month, and 30 pitch black truffles for the nights. (Rene Jouvean, from La Cuisine Provencal de Tradition Populaire)
images: Picasso, Le Coq