Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Canadian in Congo cooks a chicken

Hi readers,

Guest post by Miles today, I've been on a short-term mission here at Pioneer Christian Hospital since the start of July. I'll be telling you a story, but it isn't my story, it's the tale of a chicken that we ate one day a few weeks ago.

As you might imagine, preparing meals here is rather different than at home. Back in Canada we can pick up meat (even pre-marinated) from the grocery store and throw it straight in the oven. It's frozen, but it's relatively fresh. Over here, arguably the best way of ensuring that you get fresh chicken is to buy it when it couldn't possibly be rotten... namely when the chicken is still alive.

But naturally, on a Sunday morning, "breakfast" wasn't the first word which came to mind when I was woken up by a screaming hen. As it happened, one of the doctors at the hospital, Dr. Noe, had at some point promised my housemate (Sarah Bouchard) that he would in future bring over some chicken to eat. Neither of us expected a live chicken of course, but it was a great learning experience.

The first thing to be done was to stop the noise. Dr. Noe did this by slitting the chicken's throat (pardon my abruptness), which more importantly killed it so we could start preparing the meal. I had imagined that it would be a fairly quick process, but I was disappointed, since it took nearly a minute for the poor thing to pass on.

Next, we plucked the chicken. I believe in huge factories they do this by tumbling them in some large machine with plenty of water, but we followed the old-fashioned method. The biggest feathers came out rather quickly, since they were easy to grab, but the smaller ones took a fair bit longer. There are even some developing "feathers" (that look like the writing end of a quill) that have to be pushed out of the skin. At first I didn't even recognize them as feathers, largely because I had never given much thought to where feathers come from.

Then came the anatomy lesson. First come off the thighs and the arms (cutting through the hip and shoulder joints respectively). Afterwards the back comes off, cutting from the tail upwards, and with it the anus, rectum, intestines, and all the innards that we don't eat. Following this, we cut off the breast, and remove the lungs, heart, and liver, which are edible apparently (not that I tested this). The head and neck were the last to be removed. I may be missing a few steps, and am certainly missing the finer details, but the whole process was quite a bit more intricate than I had thought it would be.

By this point, Sarah had heated up the oil, and had prepared the egg and flour dip. Not long after, we had some really tasty fried chicken! There wasn't as much meat as there is on the frozen chickens back in Canada, but this was a rather young chicken, and also it hadn't been raised on corn and steroids, so that's a compromise I was happy to make.

And there you have it. From start to finish, it was only about 45 minutes, which was just enough time to get the stomach juices flowing for an awesome home-cooked, home-dissected, home-plucked, and home-killed chicken.

I've included some pictures of the process too, although not many because my hands were rather messy for most of it.



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