It all happened so fast.
In my mind I had it planned out precisely: I would choose the chicken, pay homage to the gods and ask to take it’s life,maybe make an offering, build a fire and dance around it, celebrating the circle of life and all that good stuff.Farmers here aren’t sentimental, well, not in the same ways I am, so basically what ended up happening is that the father grabbed a chicken by its feet, hung it upside down, and put it in a sort of chicken-coma.
“This one?” he told me/asked me.
I nodded, stealing myself for the upcoming slaughter. I was nervous, a bit, what would it be like to slit a chickens throat, see the life drip out of it? Death in my mind was sacred, magical somehow. Not so for the farmer.
Before I realized it he was stomping outside, stringing the chicken to a tree and grabbing his machete- I was torn, do I stay to kill it? Get my camera? Say a prayer? Give an offering? WHAT DO I DO?
I ended up stumbling inside for my camera, muttering under my breath, accompanied by the delighted shrieks of the two girls who were very unused to a random white girl running around like a chicken with her head cut off (pun fully intended).
I dashed outside in time to see the farmer unceremoniously grab the chickens neck, slit it, and stomp back inside.
And then- oh god- has anyone SEEN a chicken die before? It is scary as hell! Like it has all this blood dripping down and half of it’s head hanging there and then the veins start oozing through the neck and it stops moving. AND THEN IT STARTS AGAIN. And this, not even kidding you, goes on for like 10 minutes. Stop start,stop,start,stop,start. After 5 minutes I thought it was dead and went to untie it from the tree only to have it start flapping it’s wings again. I did NOT make that mistake again even though the girls, who by this time looked like they were having the time of their lives laughing at my reaction, surely would have enjoyed it if I did.
The father’s part finished, he goes to retire in his hammock with his machete. His wife takes over, graciously letting me try my hand at plucking the feathers off the bird and scrubbing it and shoving my hands into it’s still-warm intestines.
1. The first step is to pour boiling water over it to make it easier to remove the feathers.
2. Then the actual plucking starts. Oddly satisfying, like popping zits, just different.
3. After it is plucked, you hold it briefly above the flames to sear off any fluff or forgotten feathers
4. Then you wash it with soap and water….
5…..and start cutting it up!
My chicken was apparently about to lay an egg so along with a chicken, I also had THE freshest egg.Ever. Literally straight from the chicken. What was fascinating for me was seeing the egg-cluster with all the little undeveloped eggs. Here, the undeveloped eggs are called tomatillos “little tomatoes” and thrown into soups or fried and eaten as is.
There are some things that are very important, I was told, when butchering a chicken. One is to NOT CUT THE COLON. For very obvious reasons, it makes everything else taste like shit (pun also very much intended). There is also this little (bile?) duct near the (kidney?) liver that gives off this bitter liquid if it is cut, essentially turning anything it touches bitter.
And that was that! She washed all the different parts of my chicken and put them in a bucket for me to carry home of the back of my motorcycle. As though to complement my learning for the day, when I went to go give them money for the chicken, they gently pushed away my hand.
” Un regalo, niña, “(A gift, my child). The mother said gently but firmly. I felt humbled, surrounded by what some many people might consider poverty only to realize that, in fact, they don’t actually need anything that money can buy; the worth of the $100C bill is nothing more than the worth of the strip of coloured paper. They have so little but yet are so willing to give what little they have to a complete stranger, just because I asked and they could. They could have been expecting something in return, and indeed when I retur the bucket to Enrique I fill it with beans and rice and seeds and soap and playing cards from Canada, but I really don’t think they were. It is a refreshing way to think about economic exchange based on peoples capacity and desire, rather than on abstract values.
And then, just like that, it was over.