My first cooking job of the day was to hold a live chicken by it’s wings and feet while Doma slit it’s throat. I was told, “DON’T let it move.” I thought she was just going to cut the head off, but no.
First the chicken’s throat was slit and the blood was drained out of the neck into a plastic sack below while the bird was still alive. When I asked “Why do you let all the blood drain out like that?” Doma answered, “The meat of the chicken is whiter and tastes better if you drain all the blood out before cooking it.”
While the chicken thrashed in my hands and I watched it’s blood drain, I was thinking, “When is this poor bird going to die?” It seemed to go on forever.
Eventually when enough of the blood was drained, Doma cut the head of the chicken off in one smooth stroke. It dropped into the sack with all the blood. Both the head in the sack and the body in my hands continued to move. I was horrified as I felt the life drain out of this creature I was holding in my hands.
Eventually the bird’s body was still. And I thought, “Well at least that’s over now!” I said a prayer for the bird’s soul and thanked God for the sacrifice this bird was making for the family meal.
Then Doma walked into the chicken coop and got another live bird. “Oh no. Not again.” I thought, trying not to show it on my face. She handed me the second bird and I held it as before.
And yes we did it all over again with a second bird.
“It’s Sunday! Lots of people coming for Caldo de Gallina today!” Doma said cheerfully.
So I picked up one dead chicken and Doma picked up the other. I learned how to pluck, clean and butcher a chicken with my own hands. We made the soup. And it was delicious; the best chicken soup I’ve ever eaten.
Later, two of the sisters took me aside out of earshot of Doma and said, “We hate the killing the chicken part. It seems criminal to do that to a living creature.”
I nodded politely and said, “Well, one creature dies so others can live. And the soup was really delicious.”
They nodded, smiled knowingly and said, “Yes it was. Poor chickens.”
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WORDS TO THRIVE BY FOR WORLD TRAVELERS: FOOTPRINTS IN ECUADOR by Mary Anne Dorward
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