Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Freezing Your Nuggets Off

There is a story in the news this week from China that reminds me of the warnings that parents would tell their children back when I was a kid. In those days the world was fraught with all kinds of dangers in the neighbourhood, all of which would lead to instant death. And to hear your mother tell it, most of these things happened just around the corner and usually to the same poor sad sack family that clearly had the worst luck known to mankind.

There was the snow blower. You remember little Timmy Johnson? He went out to play in a snow bank and was turned into instant mulch. Wasn’t that the winter just after the summer when Timmy’s sister Sally was found, suffocated, after playing in an abandoned refrigerator? Yes, that poor Johnson family. Never mind the fact that I never actually met them and they always seemed to have an endless supply of children. It was enough to know that this family existed in the neighbourhood just to serve as an example to the rest of us as to how dangerous our environment really was.

Didn’t do your homework one night? That would be the night you would hear about the Johnson kid who didn’t do his homework. Now he’s down at the bus terminal begging for money, sniffing glue and licking the windows.

Stayed out playing and came home after the sun went down? One of the Johnson kids did that. They were last seen with the guy who lives under the bridge. No one is quite sure where they are today, although rumour has it that he’s overseas somewhere, sold into slavery in one of those countries where children are starving for the vegetables that you refused to eat.

I took in all of these stories, believing that at best there was danger lurking around every corner and at the very least DNA evidence of a missing or departed Johnson kid. The one I thought of the most was Sally – refrigerator girl. During this period lots of people in our neighbourhood decided it was time to update the fridge (out with the basic white, in with the harvest gold or avocado green) and as we all knew, locked inside a closed fridge was probably the fasted way to die – you were gone before the light went out (as an adult, I’m beginning to see the holes in our parents’ stories. Why would an abandoned, unplugged fridge still have a functioning light?)

Most responsible adults did the right thing, either blocking the door so that it couldn’t close or better yet, taking the door off completely before they abandoned the unit on the curb where we played. But some thoughtless neighbours, probably the Johnsons, never followed that advice. They were apparently too busy giving their kids scissors to run with.

Sally was in my thoughts this week because of a story on the wire services. A Chinese man took a chicken out of the freezer after two days – and was shocked to find it was still alive. Gan Shugen, of Chengdu City, says the hen was a gift from a relative. It was wrapped in a thick plastic bag with its legs bound so, assuming it was dead, Gan put it straight in the freezer. But two days later, when Gan opened the freezer, he was amazed by what he saw.

“I heard weak sounds, and when I opened the bag, a red head popped out,” he said. “It was still warm, and when I removed the tape, she could stand.” Gan says the bag also contained a big chunk of frozen excrement.

Li Fazhi, of the Chinese Association of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, said he was mystified. “If the hen was locked in a fridge, that’s still amazing; but if she survived in a freezer for two days, that’s magic,” he said.

Gan locked the hen into the freezer again for more than 20 minutes, when a local TV station came for an interview, and the hen still came out alive. But the bird’s tribulations are now over – Gan says he’ll will not eat the chicken but look after it at his home.

Now, I have three points with this story that I find somewhat disturbing. First of all, we are hearing all kinds of stories in the news these days about the shoddy workmanship of Chinese products. This fridge must be one of them. I’m more inclined to believe a malfunctioning, non-hermetically sealed fridge than a miracle chicken.

Second, what relative do you have that would give you as a gift a live, bound chicken in a bag and not tell you it was still breathing? That would be the first thing I’d mention, right after possible recipes, cooking temperature and the best way to kill it!

Third, if you already discovered after two days that the bird was still alive, why, when contacting the media to let them know, would you think to put the bird back in the freezer for another 20 minutes? I’m not exactly a raging animal rights activist but that seems a tad cruel for someone who now claims that this bird has earned the right to live out the rest of its natural life at room temperature.

Hearing a story like this I am thankful that I’m not invited over to Gan’s house to enjoy a meal at his salmonella farm and I’m also heartened to think that perhaps there is just a glimmer of hope that maybe little Sally didn’t die after all. That she is out there somewhere leading a productive adult life, or perhaps tortured by the saddened memories of all her dead siblings.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.


  1. Ahhhh...how this story marks the passage of time!

    First, there was the standard barrel-chested white fridge - the one that was most often responsible for the entrapment of so many - if you were to believe the stories about the much talked-about but never revealed Sad Sack family that were victims of as many tradgedies as they had children (and sometimes one child would be visited byMORE than one untimely accident!). So, the passing of the white fridge was heralded by the ubiquitous harvest gold and avocado green - now, as we pass into the late 2000's, the stuff of family memories and the laneways and alleys throughout our cities and towns....

  2. First you malign my pets, now my family. Is nothing sacred?

    (And how did you know my whole family history so well? Jeez.)

    Your humble servant,

    Ben Patrick Johnson

  3. That Johnson kid should stay in school and sniff Sharpies.