Canned chicken. The first time I encountered a canned chick was while working out on the tundra. I had never even seen or heard of a canned chicken before. I was holding, a can of canned chicken in my hand. It was the first time I had ever seen or heard of such a thing.

It was a fifty ounce can and the label said “Canned Whole Chicken. Without Giblets. Fully Cooked.” So not only was there chicken in the can but it was a whole chicken and I was wondering how they managed to get a whole cooked chicken into a relatively small can. It was my turn to cook, and I was a little nervous about this novel ingredient.

To start with, how we came into possession of the can was a story. After working in Saskatchewan for two or three months, four of us and two 185s with pilots had been sent to the Keewatin to check out several mineral permits, airborne anomalies and the general geology. So we were travelling light and hopscotching all over the place. We did not have a lot of food and had been eating canned ham and pilot biscuits, a lot.

One of the pilots and planes had to fly into Baker Lake to pick up some supplies and spare parts for the planes. Our boss decided to go along to see what he could find in the way of food at the Hudson’s Bay store. The sea lift hadn’t arrived yet, so there wasn’t much, except for a shelf of pilot biscuits and cans of ham, of course. While looking around he say that another shopper had snagged the last can of chicken. The boss had never seen one before, but it wasn’t ham so he entered into an impromptu negotiations, and they settled on the notion that trading one canned chicken for six cans of ham was a fair deal. When he arrived back in camp, he gave me the can and said, “See what you can do with this.”

I opened the can and all I could see was a semi gelatinous greyish stuff, which I assumed was the broth. I tried to carefully empty the contents into a cast iron frying pan, but it went sloop and cam rushing out to go splat into the frying pan. So that is the first warning: getting the chicken and broth out of the can, can be a messy performance as no one want chicken broth splashed onto their clothes or into their hair.

In the middle of the pan was a pale white carcass of an exceedingly small chicken. So, unless they had some miniature breed of chickens, this was a juvenile chicken. It was so well cooked the meat was literally falling of the bones. Using my hands, I easily and somewhat messily separated all the meat and skins from the bones.

The picture on the label showed what looked like a gold brown roasted full size chicken right out of the oven. That is not what you got. I looked at what I had and thought, now how am I going prepare this as a meal for six hungry people. It sure was not going to be a roasted or barbecued chicken meal, despite what the label may have showed. I really do think, that someone could sue the company for false advertising, in that regard.

I got out a pot and put in all the chicken broth that I could salvage, added some water and heated it up. I cut up an onion and a couple of carrots and added them to the broth. I added a couple handfuls of rice. Then when the vegetables were done, I added a can of corn nibs and all the chicken meat and skin, cut up into small pieces. Basically, I made a chicken and rice stew. Even threw in some broke pilot biscuits near the end to act us dumplings.

It turned out mighty tasty, and the crew ate the whole pot in one sitting. I even got a couple of compliments on the meal. The only complaint was there was not enough of it. Unfortunately, we only had the one can.

So, if you have never had canned chicken, why not give it a give it a try. Once you get over its appearance it does make good soups and stews. Just don’t let the picture fool you.

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