I’m not a farmer, I’m a city girl, so it is an interesting experience to me to eat something that I just saw walking around.
On Saturday, the women of our Bible Study brought us food. They brought things from their gardens – potatoes, kau kau (sweet potato), pumpkin, onion, and cabbage. Nancy also mentioned, when she told me this would be happening, that they would bring a chicken. When someone comes back from the hospital, especially after they have surgery, it is traditional to kill a pig, to help the person get their blood back. They didn’t have a pig, so she said they were bringing chicken. She said it would happen in the afternoon.
Five o’clock passed, so I had the feeling that they were cooking whatever they were bringing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The ladies came at 6:15 or so – just after the six o’clock screechy bugs sang, with a bag of vegetables – and a chicken. A very active chicken. She was quite handsome, and as the ladies sat down around our porch, the chicken moseyed around.
I offered everyone coffee, and they nodded. But Jeff mentioned that we had Pepsi – and they all exclaimed “Yes, Pepsi!”
There is a story behind that:
When I was away in The States, Jeff continued to host Bible Study, and he would make coffee. Jeff has no clue how to make coffee. Nancy told him later that it was bad, but nothing goes to waste here. One of the meris whispered to another meri “If you drink my coffee, I will give you buai.” The other meri agreed. But as soon as she finished “That was terrible. I am going to need that buai.”
We all sat around a bit, chatting a little, but Papua New Guinea is not a huge culture for small talk, and it is not one of my gifts either. After a bit, Nancy said “Lora, we will go home now,” and with that, I thanked them again and thanked them for coming to my home, and they smiled, nodded, and most of them were gone.
Before she left, Nancy coerced the chicken into a vegetable sack and then hung it on my pantry door. “It will be all right there until tomorrow.” I was shocked. Really, it wouldn’t try to get out at all? So I mentioned that we could put it in the shed. We went into the shed and Nancy put the chicken into the wheel barrow. “It will stay in there.”
You don’t want to feed a chicken before you kill it, if you can avoid it. According to Nancy, per our last chicken gift, it makes it a cleaner job. Nancy was going to come back the next day, but family in Irelya was sick, so chicken got a reprieve until Monday. I was working, and didn’t know she had even gone out and killed it, but then she was sitting on my kitchen floor, picking the final feathers off. The chicken now looked how chickens look when get them from the freezer section at Krogers.
It is different eating something that had been alive that day. It isn’t “this chicken tastes good,” but the brain goes right to “she tastes good.” It isn’t some meat in a package, but a real, actual animal, an animal that pooped on my porch and for a short time, her well-being had been my responsibility.
This isn’t anything that would turn me into a vegetarian, but it definitely makes me more determined to get as much out of her as I can. Generally, I am good at that when it comes to chickens. She made a good meal. She will also make good sandwiches for my kids. And she will also make a very good bone broth that will help us continue to be healthy. That’s why they gave her to us in the first place.