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Jade Kills a Chicken

June 3, 2010

“Are you comfortable killing a chicken?” asks the guide on our Zambian Cooking tour.  My answer is no,   but Jade is.  She’s seen it done many times by her mother when she was a kid in Brunei.  Talk to the chicken first, reassure it, then slit its throat and let it bleed into a hole in the ground while you hold and stroke the body until it stops twitching.  She kills the chicken with a very dull knife and some assistance from the cook.  Then we put it in a pot, pour boiling water over it, and pluck it.  I think to myself while plucking: “Mom would be proud!”  The cook butchers the chicken and then we boil it, and then fry it in vegetable oil.  With some of the leftover oil we sauté tomatoes and onions, and combine it with the chicken.  That’s it – very simple food.  The guide explains that traditional Zambian cooking doesn’t use any spices.

chicken shopping

Jade does the deed

We do the shopping at the Dambwa Township market, near Livingstone.  Mainly we buy leaves of vegetables – sweet potato leaves, pumpkin leaves, bitter leaves, and something explained simply as a weed, also leaves.  We also purchase corn meal, cooking oil, finely crushed peanuts, salt, tomatoes, onions, okra, charcoal and a whole live chicken.  The most exotic purchases are Mopane worms (dried caterpillars) and kapenta (tiny dried fish).

Elbie and Jade buying ingredients. Pile of kapenta beside seller.

Mopane worm

All of the food is cooked over charcoal.  We prepare the Mopane worms and kapenta by frying them in oil, with some onion and tomato.

Jade loves the kapenta, another reminder of Brunei.  For me they’re just OK.  I’m told that a lot of people have been killed by crocodiles when they wade in to fish for kapenta – five alone from a village we visit, including the mother of the hotel manager.  A boy about age 10, name Mike Tyson, shows us the crocodile bite scar that circles his arm at the elbow.  The hotel brochure says “we do not advise that anyone goes swimming in the lake as there are crocodiles in every lake/dam/river in Zambia.  Please use the swimming pool.”

The pumpkin leaves and sweet potato leaves are tasty!  We peel the stems of the pumpkin leaves and then chop them super fine with the very dull knife.  What would take me 30 seconds in the Cuisinart at home takes a good 30 minutes.  When cooked down with some water and lots of crushed peanuts it produces about a cereal bowl full of puree.  It’s yummy, my favorite dish, but a very small portion size for a lot of work.  After preparing 8 or 9 dishes, I learn that is generally the way it is here.  All of the dishes are eaten as a kind of condiment on top of lumps of thick corn meal porridge called Nshima (pap in South Africa).  Nshima is the staple in Zambia, and in many other African countries.  It’s extremely thick and requires a big stirring effort.

Nshima on the right. Pumpkin leaf dish at center.

A few days later we get another opportunity to help cook, and it’s very similar except this time we cook with wood instead of charcoal.  The cook is a 17 year old girl nicknamed Cha Cha, which I gather translates to a girl who’s very busy – like ants in her pants.

Cha Cha, me and Jade

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2010 8:27 pm

    …DVDs and photos and things posted, btw.

  2. A.J. permalink
    June 5, 2010 8:58 pm

    From what I gathered from Ian at the D.C. United game last week and the posts on this blog, I think I’m falling in love with this Jade character – character because I haven’t met her and because from my perspective of only knowing you seems like a fixture in your travels.

    • June 11, 2010 9:00 am

      Careful AJ – she’s a bit of a man eater. Hopefully you get the chance to meet her some time though!

  3. Marlene Tambre permalink
    June 6, 2010 9:08 pm

    Well Sariah, Grandpa and Grandma Wright would be disappointed you never took the opportunity to kill a chicken, a task they routinely did but I managed to escape. Here in Canada once the head is off they let the chicken run around spurting blood until it drops, sounds like they are gentler there but the end result is the same, bird in pot!

    Love Mom

  4. Amanda Buckiewicz permalink
    June 7, 2010 9:25 pm

    Wow, I don’t know if I could have killed a chicken like that, either. Go Sarge!

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