Sunday, August 12, 2007

Khalida: Chicken in a Bag

(Here's a Guest-Post from Khalida):

Ring ring.
"What's up?"
"Stop by my mom's house to pick up the chicken."

Sharon and I have escaped from the little monkeys and are running around Cobano unchaperoned, buying groceries, getting milk from Asan's grandmother (from the cow, but though some might say it tastes like grass, others, who shall remain nameless, say it tastes like a rubber glove), and saying hello to yet more of Asan's family in town. (He is related to half of the town. At least.) I finally mention to Sharon that we have to stop by my mother-in-law's on the way out of town to get a chicken. Finally, they have caught one for us of the 100-some-odd chicken running around their yard. Sharon groans, imagining a long drawn out visit, yet again, with Rosa Leda. I promise we will be quick. I imagine popping in, picking up a plastic bag with chicken pieces in it, and jumping back into the car.


I find my mother-in-law at the back of the house talking on the phone. She whispers that the chicken is right over there. I look. I see a wooden crate, upside-down in the yard. I look at her suspiciously. I look back at the crate. Ah, there seems to be a live chicken under the crate. I look back at her horrified. She tells me to just put it in a sac and take it home. Huh? Okay, first of all - it is alive? And second of all, sac? Where? She chuckles at me and tells me to have Millo, their gardener/helper show me what to do. He laughs and tells me to put it in a sac. What is the deal with the sac? Should I have brought one? I shrug apologetically, I'm a gringa, c'mon, they know I don't know what to do with a chicken if it isn't wrapped in plastic wrap, denude of skin and bones in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Gimme a break! They do, chuckling to themselves at the poor gringa, innocent as a baby. It occurs to me that they have orchestrated this entire scenario to see me squirm. He shows me how to tie the legs and brings me a sac and puts it inside, all the while repeatedly explaining graphically how to kill it though I keep reassuring him that there is no way that I am going to be the one to kill it. That is what my Tico husband is for.

I walk back to the car, barely able to suppress the smile on my face. Sharon looks confused, then horrified as the bag starts to wiggle around. I say, "A trip to Costa Rica wouldn't be complete without a live chicken in a bag."

NOTE FROM SHARON: A few months ago in Austin, we went with friends to visit a farm, and I had a conversation with Misty (and maybe others?) about processed chicken. I remember telling her that I just didn't want to know where my chicken came from, that I could barely bring myself to eat it as it was, from a package. The conversation stuck with me, because I knew as the words came out of my mouth, that that was one of those positions I'd some day evolve out of. Barbara Kingsolver's book, coinciding with this trip, made me look it square in the eye. I decided that I shouldn't be eating meat if I can't reconcile myself to the reality of where it comes from (not just from an ethical standpoint, but also because of the complicated health and political implications of industrial meat farming).

I didn't watch the whole butchering and cleaning process this time, but--I swear!--I'm going to do it before we leave. And I bet I'll be a little more grateful about my food for having seen it.

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