I really like supporting local business’s here in my neighborhood in Ecuador. One day I had a great idea I thought. I would go next door and see about getting a fresh chicken.
Normal or Criolla?
The family asked me whether I wanted a “Normal” chicken or a “Cirolla” chicken. I asked what a “Criolla” chicken was and they went into gestures of rapture. “Muy sabroso” (Very tasty), “Delicioso!” (Delicious!) and “Tienes que probable!” (You must try it!). So I thought to myself, “Why not?” and nodded my head, “Criolla pro favor.” (Criolla please.)
Meeting My Criolla Chicken
They were thrilled and ushered me back to the back of their house and took me to the chicken coop. I thought to myself, “Oh no. Am I going to MEET the Criolla chicken that I’m going to cook for dinner?!”
The ladies were all smiles as they opened the door to the chicken coop and Doma, the elder grandmother reached in and grabbed a huge, white, LIVE chicken. “How about this one?” she asked me in Spanish.
As the chicken thrashed about, all I could think of was, “Well this is certainly shaping up to be an interesting afternoon.”
With a smile that I hoped did not give me away I said, “Uh. Bien” (Uh. Good.)
“Bien!” everyone else exclaimed.
How Much Is It?
“Cuanto Cuesta?” (How much is it?) I asked politely.
Doma said without hesitation, “Vente Dollares.” ($20.00) and my face fell. “Vente Dolares? Es muy caro pro un pollo!” ($20.00? That’s very expensive for one chicken!”)
That’s when I got the full explanation that it was an organic chicken and very special Criolla chicken and a Criolla chicken that was corn fed specially every day and it was perfect, the very best in the world for eating….etc. etc. etc.
Local vs Gringo Pricing
At this point the son of the house came out and said, “Mama! Doma! No. $20.00 is too much. She doesn’t deserve the “Gringo Price.” She is out neighbor remember?!!”
(He didn’t know at that point that I could understand everything he was saying. It’s common here to have two prices for everything. One price is the “locals” price and is charged to native Ecuadorians, friends, neighbors. The other is “Gringo” price to tourists, people who are not locals or whom you don’t know.)
I offered $10.00 to be polite and we settled on $15.00 when I understood that they would be going to all the extra work of plucking and cleaning the chicken right in front of me.
Watching My Criolla Chicken Meet His Maker
I honestly don’t exactly know why I felt I should pay more for the privilege of watching a live chicken be killed, plucked and cleaned right in front of me and being completely sick to my stomach and never be able to eat chicken again, but I did.
So I stood there trying not to be sick in their yard as I watched the entire “end of life” affair with my Criolla chicken. They put it into a plastic bag, I paid and with a trail of blood oozing out of my bag and the two chicken feet sticking out the top of the bag, I walked half a block home to my condo.
When I was almost at the gate, one of the daughters from the tienda, Maritza, came running after me asking if I knew how to cook my new Criolla chicken? When I told her no and asked her if she had a good recipe, she asked me to come back to the family tienda (store) and they would give me a few tips.
How To Cook It?
This prompted everyone in the family to come out and discuss in GREAT detail HOW I should cook this Criolla chicken. Each person had to have their turn to speak about their personal favorite recipe for cooking Criolla Chicken. There are about 7 family members in the tienda at the time in a full Criolla chicken cooking debate.
Eventually, after about an hour’s discussion, it was decided that I should place it into a pan surrounded by chopped onions, sprinkled with Maagi dehydrated chicken broth and then drenched in a large beer. I was to cook it for 2 hours on very low. If I followed their instructions exactly, “Mi especial Criolla pollo sería absolutamente perfecto!” (“My special Criolla Chicken would be absolutely perfect”) they assured me!
“Gracias por todo de sus ayuda! (Thanks for all of your help!) I said as I left the tienda and headed home.
My Criolla Chicken Cooking Disaster
As I was placing the freshly killed and plucked chicken into the pan with it’s feet standing straight up, I couldn’t help but think, “This looks just like the Road Runner in that classic Road Runner cartoon!” Long legs. Scrawny little body.
After cooking this very special Criolla chicken exactly as they had advised for 2 hours it was still tough as nails. So I gave it another hour. Still to was as tough as could be imagined for a chicken.
Eventually after 4 hours I took it out and tried to cut it. There was no possible way I could eat it. It was so tough I couldn’t even chew it. Trust me. I tried. I really tried.
So I cut it up and put it into a soup pot and started boiling the darn thing. A few hours later it was still tough as nails and so I finally gave up and had cheese and crackers for dinner.
So much for the most expensive chicken of my entire life.
My very special, very delicious, totally organic Criolla chicken was a TOTAL BUST.
I Avoided The Tienda
Must say, I avoided walking by the tienda for two weeks not wanting to run into any of the family and have them ask me,
“So! How was the Criolla chicken!?”
I had to figure out also what I was going to say as I knew that I couldn’t avoid their entire family forever!
I Finally Confessed
So I bought a little mint plant in town and took it over as a thank you gift.
I announced that I was a total failure as a cook and clearly their criolla chicken deserved a better cook than I to properly cook it. And I was sorry to report that I had ruined it and I was surprised that the entire family had not smelled my terrible chicken cooking all the way here from my condo.
They all laughed and said, “Don’t worry. Well we will come over and cook it for you next time! It was probably your oven was too high.” Very kind and forgiving I thought.
And after 3 months, neither I, nor they, have brought that Criolla Chicken up again.
I Finally Ate Cooked Criolla Chicken Today!
I tonically enough, I was invited to a native Ecuadorian friend’s home for lunch today and guess what she served? CRIOLLA CHICKEN! Here is what it SHOULD have looked like when I made it. And it was indeed delicious!
Have you ever had a what you thought was going to be a simple thing turn into an unmitigated disaster?
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