When I was in elementary school I remember a missionary from Mexico speaking in my Sunday School class during missions conference. She told the story of when she first had to kill a chicken. She described herself standing on a broom across a chicken’s neck. She then was supposed to pull up on the chicken and literally pop his head off. I laughed with the other kids as she told us how she didn’t pull hard enough and had to listen to the chicken squawk with every elastic pull on its neck, but I knew from that day that I wanted to kill a chicken.
I can’t say that I’ve ever killed anything other than fish and bugs on purpose. Today I killed a chicken. I can’t complain, it’s something I’ve been asking my “mom” to do with me since the first week I was here. Finally the day came, and Alberto brought two chickens home on the moto and solemnly led Barbara and I behind the house. Honestly, I couldn’t believe I was doing it as I stood there with the knife in my hand. What if the chicken bit me? Were we talking blood dripping or splashing or gushing? Was I going to involuntarily throw up on my Dominican brother when my stomach realized I had deliberately killed an animal?
Step 1: Lose the head
I watched my roommate struggle to saw through the neck of her bird and decided then and there, that if I truly was going to do this, I had to work fast. As Alberto held the wings and body, I stretched out the neck and with three firm strokes stood there holding a chicken head in my hand while the wings flapped around on the body. I set the head down on the block next to me to await the next step. I bent over to look at it one more time and make sure the eyes were closed in peace, then, like something in a horror movie, the entire head tensed, the eyelids flew up and the mouth opened as it stuck its tongue out at me in final defiance.
Step 2: De-feather
Nothing was stranger than touching the bodies of those dead chickens and finding them warm. We carried the bodies to the table and proceeded to pour boiling water over the entire thing. I watched in fascination as the skin shriveled up the moment the water touched it, causing the feathers to stick straight out. I felt like I was weeding a garden as we carefully plucked every feather, making sure to get the full “root”. No one wants to be munchin’ on their chicken and pull a feather follicle out of their mouth. The trickiest ones were on the tips of the wings and the chicken butt. No joke, I had to sit my chicken in the pot of boiling water like a hot tub in order to get those out.
Step 3: G-U-T-S
I followed my brother’s orders exactly as he showed me how to cut just under the tailbone on either side, expecting to begin cutting the chunks of meat that are served to me at lunch. Imagine my surprise when the next thing he exemplified was shoving his entire hand into that hole and pulling out EVERYTHING inside. I guess it has to be done, but could ya warn a girl? I’ve always enjoyed exploring things, and never minded dirty hands so I dove right in and began identifying intestines, kidneys, the liver, the heart and the stomach as I pulled them out. Every morning I watch the chickens at my house eat up their cornmeal. This chicken apparently didn’t have time to digest this morning. I cut open the stomach and found myself standing with a handful of yellow meal. This I discarded, along with the lining of the stomach, before setting the rest of it aside as part of the delicacies.
...and thus I was left with two naked, empty chickens
Step 4: Carve
Barbara passed the camera to me, and I passed her the knife. I snapped photos and watched as she followed Alberto’s example with impeccable perfection. She first cut the feet off and then began butchering the body – literally. Starting with the legs she made a slice just above the thigh and then SNAPPED the hip off before separating the two parts. Barbara is a harmless girl, and normally might not take joy in breaking things, but I think she thoroughly enjoyed the several times she was able to snap bones and rip meat apart. By the end, we had a pot full of chicken parts, ready to be cooked!
Thus ended my chicken-killing experience. I must admit, I struggled to eat the chicken served at lunch today. I knew it was the same as I ate every day, but this chicken had a face (and a name by the way, Ponelope) – even if it was spastic and creepy. Something felt strange about knowing that 3 hours before, this chicken was peckin’ around the yard eatin’ her cornmeal, looking for spiders.
*more photos will be posted when the internet allows :-)