Once there was a little red hen. She was a nice red hen. Everyone loved her and her hen house.
Then one day the red hen did something that made people mad, and everything changed.
The red hen’s little hen house was in a little old village.
She loved to have guests visit her. She loved to make food for them to enjoy. Not just food involving eggs such as oeuf à la coque. Other food too.
Guests would travel almost 200 miles for the red hen’s food and hospitality.
The red hen’s guests loved her locavore sensitively raised non-GMO, non-conflict, non-cruelty, non-corporate, non-culturally misappropriating but instead culturally respectful and celebrating, low-carb, lactose- and gluten-free diverse foods with “delicious” vegan choices.
The red hen never served foods that her guests normally gobble down every day at home or work lunches, client dinners, industry conferences, or at Dunkin’ Donuts from the drive-through to ease the stressful commute to work.
The red hen only served guilt-free albeit costlier foods, including a $12 cheese board that would cost $4 at the Kroger but the board makes it better.
The red hen made everyone feel welcome to her hen house.
She especially welcomed visitors who were allergic to almost every food except red quinoa rinsed well to remove any trace of saponins, a toxic compound present in soapwort and a class of steroid and terpenoid glycosides that may cause ankle swelling, ennui and existential angst, lassitude and other maladies the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 classifies as mental disorders.
Some mean people call picky eaters “high-maintenance” but the red hen just clucks and offers her guests what their bodies, nutritionists and Huffington Post articles on Facebook such as “Ten Super Foods That Will Extend Your Life Unhappily” say people really need.
The red hen also loved to invite all her animal friends to her hen house.
She did not care if they were different from her. She loved that they were different from her.
Some red hens want to be just with other red hens. “Oh no,” said the red hen. “Not me! I love everyone!”
She embraced the beautiful diversity of chickens, from the Cornish Cross to the Jersey Giant, Bresse Gauloise, Orpington and other leading meat breeds. All were welcome in her kitchen. Sometimes the red hen invited her chicken guests over to relax in a special long hot bath called sous vide.
The red hen also invited pigs, cows and sheep to her hen house. Even fish!
The red hen was so excited to see her animal friends that she wanted them to come right over from the farm to her table without stopping in between for processing.
When the red hen told her animal friends, “We would love to have you over for dinner,” she meant it literally. Her classic steak tartare, trout genobloise, pan-seared pork chops and braised leg of lamb really are to die for.
These are very bad jokes, but the red hen had a wonderful old Borscht Belt/Henny Youngman sense of humor.
For a while, everything was nice and happy for the red hen and her hen house.
Until one day when a famous chicken came in.
The chicken was famous because she was roosting in a big white house under a very big rooster, the most important rooster in the land.
The big important rooster was a large and mighty fighting rooster. He had beautiful wattles. These are the red, fleshy growths that hang down from a rooster’s beak.
The big rooster also displayed the most elaborate comb growing from the top of his head than any other rooster would dare to display. His comb was unusual, confusing and strangely fascinating.
The big rooster was more violent in his conflict and aggressive in his mating than ordinary roosters.
While most birds twitter softly to greet the sunrise, the big rooster crowed loud and long before the dawn.
The big rooster was proud to be “the cock of the walk.” This sounds like something rude, but the term is understood and respected in the chicken world.
The big rooster loved to attack chickens who un-chickenly questioned his authority or did not approve of him. He especially loved to attack chickens whose chicken-scratchings criticized him, especially those chickens that had won a very special award called the Pullet Surprise.
The big rooster pecked all day and every day with great power. He did so much powerful pecking that it began to seem like he was compensating for his pecker.
The red hen did not care for this big rooster. So she did not care for his hen.
The red hen felt the big important rooster’s hen was too “chicken” to stop clucking for the big important rooster with the extraordinary wattles and comb.
So the red hen did something terrible.
She clucked and clucked and clucked and clucked and then asked the big rooster’s hen to leave her hen house. Right in the middle of the cheese board.
That’s when the red hen’s troubles began.
The rooster’s very good friends thought the red hen did a very bad thing.
The rooster’s friends called the red hen horrible and many other bad words that only adults use because she had been mean to a special guest.
The rooster’s friends called the red hen a liberal fascist hypocrite pretending to be open-minded when in fact her mind was closed to a different point of view.
The news about the red hen and the very bad thing she did spread far and wide.
The news spread like chicken feed tossed across a free-range chicken yard that gets the chickens excited, frenzied and pecking each other in crazy ways like the internet does.
Soon everyone in the country who loved the big important rooster began to express their hate for the little red hen.
Some of the angriest friends of the big rooster even threw eggs at the red hen’s house, killing unborn hen babies.
Rooster friends with the weakest bird brains were confused and attacked other hen houses that had the same name as the red hen’s but were not related at all.
Not very many of the rooster’s friends made a peep about how bad their fellow chickens were acting. Some of them even defended the angriest, meanest chickens.
Before long, everyone in the entire country started clucking or crowing about the little red hen in the little village.
Everyone started accusing one another in uncivil ways of not being civil.
But the big important rooster continued pecking and pecking to keep the fight going because he loves to fight.
His chicken flock continued pecking and pecking because the flock always does what the rooster says.
As for the red hen, her hen house became famous across the land.
The red hen had more visitors and social media attention than she ever dreamed of having, especially without any marketing budget or social media strategy to speak of, or even at all.
Some new visitors came just to insult and threaten the little red hen because they are angry sad disturbed and ignorant people. But many other new visitors who appreciated what she did just wanted to support the red hen and enjoy her food and hospitality.
The red hen’s voicemail and email also filled up with offers from business consultants charging $1,000 an hour suggesting they could help her “capitalize on” or “monetize” her fame to expand, then franchise into a global Red Hen locavore food chain, and eventually sell Red Hen Global LLC to hedge fund investors for $23 billion who will over-leverage the chain with debt to pocket billions in partner bonuses, bankrupt the chain, and throw millions of innocent workers out of work.
In the meantime, the red hen could invite many more animal friends for dinner.
The red hen is keeping her options open as she takes meetings with really nice Wall Street equity investors. They really seem like they care about her. She wonders how much their shoes cost.
There is a moral of the story of the red hen and the rooster.
Don’t worry if you do things that make a lot of people angry.
You might just get famous. Then you can turn your fame — even if it’s bad fame— into success.
Just like the big rooster does.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer