Posted in Family, Home

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

The cook & his apprentice, collaborating on a [winner winner!] chicken dinner
According to my Urban Dictionary, the above phrase dates from early days in Las Vegas, when a standard gambling bet was two dollars, and most casinos offered a three-piece chicken dinner for $1.79. Anyone who won a bet would have the price of a chicken dinner (winner winner)!

One of our neighboring Idaho towns has put another spin on the phrase… Local legend has it that a farm-wife invited a politician to her farmhouse for a Sunday dinner about a century ago, and guided his arrival with “Chicken Dinner” signs painted with arrows. She had a scheme up her sleeve, though, and leaned on him to promise some road improvements before he was permitted to tuck into his apple pie.

Chicken Dinner Road, Idaho

She carried her point (“Winner Winner,” indeed!), and the resulting route is still named for her victory: Chicken Dinner Road.  One of the nearby wineries even offers a “Chicken Dinner red” in its honor.

Whether these Urban Legend-esque explanations are accurate or not, the expression itself is apropos for our last family weekend, involving both chickens and Poker-playing…

We did enjoy a chicken dinner, courtesy of Keoni and his kitchen apprentice, Elena Grace: Katsu chicken, a popular Hawai’ian dish, and a favorite with the kids. But mostly last weekend we were winding up our preparations for welcoming some live laying-hens to the family. Our big news: the Chicken House is finished!

(Previous pieces of the poultry play-by-play, if you’d like them: Home to Roost,  Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, and Our Little Patch of Plantation.)

There are a few more touches to add; Keoni intends to cut shingles from some of our scrounged cedar planking, we’ll cut a space for an air vent (one of the items we scrounged from the neighborhood’s due-to-be-demolished trailer), and the back side hasn’t yet been painted. But the house and its surrounding fencing (complete with a left-over gate scrounged from another neighbor’s re-fencing project) are functionally finished, and ready for chickens!

The construction crew, the painting crew, and the mostly-finished Hale Moa (“chicken house”)

Having seen similar structures offered on Craigslist for prices ranging from $200 to a thousand dollars, we’re very pleased with ourselves regarding our total project cost. (You noticed the repetition of the word “scrounged” above?) Thanks to our enthusiastic application of scrounging-and-bartering habits, our Hale Moa (the Hawai’ian words for “chicken house”) cost a grand total of thirty-one dollars. We purchased nails from Home Depot and chicken wire through Craigslist, but those were our only expenditures. We were scheduled to pick up the chickens themselves this weekend, but we had to postpone our adoption-day due to a medical emergency at the other end…

Elena Grace’s “mailbox chicken,” waiting to greet the incoming flock

In the meantime, though, Elena Grace thinks she might write a welcome-letter for the chickens, since we’re already set up for poultry-post… The mailbox beside the chicken-house is our joke with our son Christian. When he first proposed the poultry project, he asked if he could help out with raising and caring for them. I answered without hesitation that he could be in charge of them if he wished to be the official Chicken Wrangler.

His response? “Actually, Mom” [his signature phrase since his toddler years] “a person usually has to start a job at the bottom and work their way up to full responsibility. You start in the mail-room—isn’t that how it works?” Well, we still had the mailbox from our last house, so we installed it in the chicken yard to afford him the opportunity of “starting in the mail room.”

“Always wear sunglasses when you play poker”… now a Tyler Tradition

The weekend’s other highlight was some poker-playing. We taught Christian to play a few years ago, and we’ve been promising to teach Elena Grace so the family can play. We finally made good on our promise—Elena Grace insisting on playing without help after the first hand, referring only to the written-out description of the various scoring hands. Fiercely independent little cuss, this one. I did have to promise her a “clean copy” re-write of the list, though, because I had inadvertently switched the punctuation style mid-stream—a deviation that offended her obsessive-compulsive need for consistency

She added a “rule” of her own to the top of the list, after Keoni donned his sunglasses partway through the game. He was just goofing around, with the shades of World Series poker players in mind, but Elena Grace immediately declared the wearing of sunglasses to be a new “Tyler tradition,” and we rounded up all the sunglasses in the house so the kids could each choose a pair. Just for fun, I added a leather jacket to the look—a spontaneous idea that snowballed into half an hour of ransacking closets for an all-around game of dress-up.

Our game of poker turned into a game of dress-up…


It’s the meta-message that makes us joyful: the kids feel loved and valued and home with us. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner all around!


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

23 thoughts on “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

  1. Kana,
    You write beautiful stuff. And I am using stuff in the bestest sense of stuff. Speaking of bestest…. Bestest family picture. Ever.
    Le Clown


    1. We’re definitely blowing this one up to put on the wall! :) My only regret is that it’s not a COMPLETE family picture, because Kapena was out with friends… On the other hand, it’s an ACCURATE family picture—a 16-year-old isn’t often home on a weekend night. (His loss!) :)


  2. I noticed the mail box right off and laughed out loud. It appears your children are brilliant, and funny. And mostly, safe to be who they are when they are with you and Keoni. Those chickens will love their new family.


    1. Keoni’s Chicken Katsu

      * 4 skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves, pounded to half-inch thickness
      salt & pepper to taste
      * 2 T flour
      * 1 egg, beaten
      * 1 cup panko bread crumbs (look in the “Asian” section of the supermarket)
      * oil for frying

      Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Put the flour, egg, and panko crumbs into separate shallow dishes. Coat the chicken breasts in flour, then dip them in the egg. Press the chicken into the panko crumbs until it’s thoroughly coated on both sides.
      Heat a half-inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Put the coated chicken in the hot oil and cook 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through.

      Helpful Hints from Keoni:
      1. I add a little bit of milk to the beaten egg.
      2. When adding salt and pepper to taste, mix the spices into the flour. Feel free to add other flavors; I typically include lemon pepper and dehydrated garlic powder.
      3. When pressing the chicken into the panko, press firmly to flatten the chicken to a quarter-inch thickness. The thinner the chicken, the more quickly and thoroughly it will cook.
      4. This same recipe can be used with pork cutlet to make Tonkatsu. Slice the pork thinly, because it doesn’t press as easily as the chicken.
      5. At our restaurant, we used the deep-fryer rather than a skillet. At home we often use a wok with peanut oil so we can submerge the chicken entirely.

      Serve with Aloha (love), and enjoy! :)


  3. Christian cracks me up. He’s a pre-teen going on 45 with that logical wisdom (“That would be unnecessarily complicated, Mom.). I love following your kids around. It gives me hope for the future.


    1. And THAT was when he was seven… :) In truth, he’s been “going on 45” since his toddler years—a constant source of joy (and entertainment)! I love your extrapolation: “hope for the future”… I’m content to think that my greatest contribution to the world isn’t anything *I* might do—my best contribution will be the two awesome people I gave the world. ;)


    1. I’m pleased that the meta-message comes through. It’s one of the things we thoroughly enjoy with our kids, and I couldn’t phrase it any better than you did: “working and playing together in love and joy”… :)


  4. Your son and mine are SOOOO much alike that it’s scary. Smarty boys, they are. I share Elena Grace’s love of ditching the maiden name. It was wonderful to sever that tie legally.


    1. I felt the same—though for different reasons in my case. It was one of those names where nobody who heard it knew how to spell it, and nobody who saw it written knew how to pronounce it… I was just glad to trade for something simpler. ;)


  5. Great post! It’s good you don’t make a big deal out of the last names, and is nice that they naturally think of your last name as family (my step dad legally adopted us as children, so we became a complete family legally, even though emotionally, we were already there.) The poker picture is hilarious. I imagine you’ll have some fun poker nights coming up now that Elena knows how to play!


    1. I think I’m going to have reason to be glad we’re only playing for chips and not for money. I suspect we’ve got a sharp pair of sharks on our hands. ;)


  6. What a lovely picture of family life. made me want to start all over again, though even my grandchildren are now too old to spoil.
    You don’t need to play Happy Families ( d’you know that old game?) – you are !


    1. What a weird phrase. I’ve never heard it before, but I can see myself using it going forward.

      Your house sounds like such a fun place to be, I really love reading your stories.
      thank you for sharing with us. :-)


  7. Love it! You look like a whole family of card sharks – I wouldn’t want to mess with you guys!

    Congrats on the finished chicken house, too. It looks impressive, for sure — even more so, knowing where you got most of your supplies. Super job! Your chickens, when they move in, will certainly enjoy it!


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