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Sunday, February 12, 2012


 CHICKEN (Reaktion Books, 2012; distr. Univ. of Chicago Press, 216
pages, ISBN 978-1-86189-858-6, $19.95 US paper covers) is by Annie
Potts, an academic in New Zealand. Her book is one of the amazing
"Animal" series published by Reaktion in the UK. Most of the series
deal with animals we do not eat, such as Cat, Dog, Giraffe, Parrot and
Whale. Domesticated animals have included Cow, Pig and Duck, plus
farmed animals such as Salmon and Moose. This is the popular culture
story of the Chicken: dealing with historical and literary items such
as fancy breeds from jungle fowl, the religious venerations of chickens
and roosters in the past, egg-rolling, cockfighting, wishbone-pulling,
and the like. Relationships with humans are also covered. There is a
separate chapter on "meat chicks" and "egg machines". And it has been
richly illustrated with colour and black and white historical photos
and drawings, older advertisements, and just plain whimsy – 103 in all,
72 in colour. At the end, Potts has an illustrated timeline of the
chicken, endnotes, select bibliography, a listing of associations and
periodicals, websites, and an index. This is compelling reading.
Audience and level of use: those interested in food lore and history.
Some interesting or unusual facts: "The Day of the Chicken is the first
day of the lunar Chinese New Year, so called because only the Heavenly
Chicken knows when the first sunrise of a new year occurs."
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

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