This recipe wasn’t passed down to us by a family member, but we’ve enjoyed it for so many years that it’s become a family recipe for our family just the same.
We found this recipe online when the kids were small, and we’ve been making it ever since. My husband changes the recipe a little each time, but it’s remained essentially the same. It’s definitely a family favorite.
The factory had moved on to other things. It was long after Easter. The few little mechanical chickens left on store shelves were deeply discounted. The little brown chicken with the bright yellow belly was among that sad number.
She watched the customers pass by without blinking. She was afraid to miss her chance. What if she blinked and they thought she didn’t have eyes at all? She refused to consider the idea. She watched and waited.
One day, a customer was looking through the discount rabbit pencil toppers and met the little chicken’s eyes. She reached out and picked up the little chicken and wound her up and set her down. Peck, step. Peck, step. Peck, step. The woman dropped the chicken into the cart and moved on.
After a long journey in a dark grocery bag, the little chicken was lifted from the bag and handed to a child while the woman unloaded the rest of her groceries. The little girl grinned at the little chicken and wound her up and set her down. Peck, step. Peck, step. Peck, step.
The little girl laughed and clapped her hands. “Mom, the chicken can peck the ground just like a real chicken. I’m going to call her Miss Peckety-Peck.”
“Sounds great, dear. Why don’t you take her to see your room.”
The little girl took Miss Peckety-Peck upstairs and introduced her to Miss Clippety-Clop, and Mister Tall and Mister I-Don’t-Know. Then she dropped the little chicken on a shelf and ran downstairs.
Miss Peckety-Peck looked around at her new home. Miss Clippety-Clop shook her purple sparkly mane and trotted over. “Hello,” she neighed. “I’m a magical princess pony. Mister Tall is a jolly rainbow giraffe and Mister I-Don’t-Know is…” She paused. “No one knows.”
“I’m a chicken,” Miss Peckety-Peck said.
Miss Clippety-Clop waited.
“Just a chicken,” Miss Peckety-Peck added.
“Oh.” Miss Clippety-Clop didn’t look at all impressed. “We’ll just let you settle in.” She backed away and joined the others.
“Boring,” Mister I-Don’t-Know whispered loudly.
And so Miss Peckety-Peck learned that finding a home wasn’t really all that she dreamed it would be. The little girl rarely glanced at her and the other toys ignored her. Miss Peckety-Peck stared out the window day after day and dreamed of being a real chicken. She was sure that if she didn’t blink, she’d one day get her wish.
And then, around midsummer, there was a tapping at the window. Miss Clippety-Clop, Mister Tall, and Mister I-Don’t-Know glanced up and then looked away again. “Just a branch,” Mister I-Don’t-Know whispered loudly.
But Miss Peckety-Peck didn’t look away and didn’t blink. She stared out the window, and so she saw the moment when the branch turned into a green fairy. They locked eyes. The green fairy put a hand up to the window and stepped through. The other toys didn’t notice.
“Do you have a wish?” the green fairy asked.
“I want to be a real chicken,” Miss Peckety-Peck said.
The green fairy smiled. “The moment you act like a real chicken, you will be a real chicken.”
“I can peck the ground just like a real chicken if someone winds me up and sets me down,” Miss Peckety-Peck pointed out. The green fairy laughed and faded away.
Miss Peckety-Peck stared out the window and waited. A week later, the little girl took her toys out to play in the yard. When she was called in for lunch, she left them in the heat-yellowed grass in the shade of the tree. The toys watched the clouds pass high overhead and the sun slowly slide across the sky.
Just as the setting sun was painting the edge of the sky in pinks and purples, the little girl returned to scoop up her toys. She picked up Miss Clippity-Clop, Mister Tall, and Mister I-Don’t-Know and hurried inside. Their bright colors made them easy to spot and retrieve. Miss Peckety-Peck, little and brown and yellow, was wearing effective camouflage colors, and she blent in too well with her surroundings. She was left behind.
Throughout the evening, Miss Peckety-Peck stared unblinking across the lawn. Finally she was outside where real chickens lived. If she didn’t blink, she’d surely notice the thing she needed to do to prove she was a real chicken. She watched and waited.
The next day dawned. Cars and dogs and people passed along the street beyond the tree. The sun climbed high overhead and waited there. The street was empty. Miss Peckety-Peck watched and waited.
And then, a piece of paper blew through the yard and hit Miss Peckety-Peck in the face. She blinked. Startled, she flapped her wings and ran around, squawking in fright. It took her a moment to realize that no one had wound her up.
She wasn’t little or mechanical any more. She was finally a real chicken. She didn’t have to watch and wait any more. She crossed the road and flew away, ready to seek her fortune.
Once there was an alchemist who was scanning through the real estate listings hoping to find the perfect home. Apartment buildings are not really well-suited to alchemy. People kept knocking on his door and interrupting his experiments to say things like, “Can you stop all the sulfur smells and explosions?