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A word for my vegetarian readers: Uh, sorry.

My househelper does not like chickens from the supermarket. She screws up her entire face, smelling them, poking at them. Once she made me throw one away, claiming it smelled bad. I didn’t actually think it smelled all that bad, but since in my experience North Africans will consider as food more things than I will, I went with her judgement.

The chickens seem harmless to me, although I admit they do sometimes look a bit old. They are raised in Brazil, killed in a “hallal” way (i.e. permitted for Muslims), and shipped for sale in Morocco. They are inexpensive.

Khadija tells me that I need to go to Takkadoum to buy a live chicken. They will kill it for me, she tells me, and then I need to let it sit a day. It will be so much better than these dead, wilted-looking Brazilian chickens, and the cost is the same.


So this week, we went to Takkadoum to buy a chicken. We knew where to go–right next to the place we buy our lamb, although that’s already slaughtered and in pieces by the time we get there.

chicken rainbow

We view the impressive rainbow of chickens on the ground. We have no idea how to pick a chicken. So we ask—which is better? Male or female? Are certain colours of feathers hiding a plumper, tastier interior?  Lower in fat; higher in nutrition? Less sugar? The men shrug. It’s a matter of personal taste, they tell us. This is unusually unhelpful.

Since we have no idea, we pick one at random. I like black and white, Donn likes black and white, why not a black and white chicken? The guy offers us two chickens, tied together by their legs and dangling resignedly from his hand, but we’re pretty sure we just want one, even though we’re having guests.

one or two

We point to our chicken, and it’s taken just across the way to be weighed and slaughtered. I’ve never seen a chicken killed before so I’m looking forward to seeing it flopping round with its head cut off, like the stories my dad used to tell of his childhood on a Kansas farm. Instead, the chicken’s throat is cut and it’s plopped down into a bucket, where the wings flap a bit but it’s undramatic.

moment of truth

Once the chicken has had time to drain, it’s taken up to The Machine. We can’t really see The Machine, as I call it, only a rubber belt thumping away on the side. But in an amazingly short time, the plucked raw chicken is held up for our inspection. The man offers us the head, but we decline, although I’m tempted to take it just for you, dear readers. But then what would I do with it? Yeah.

chickens and red wall

The chicken has shrunk dramatically. It’s only about half the size, and it wasn’t all that big to start with! Its entrails are removed and it’s washed in a little white sink and then placed in a bag and handed to us.

cut up

Of course Khadija does not come, so my plan of showing you a beautiful picture of a chicken couscous has been foiled. I put it in the freezer for later. In the meantime, you can enjoy seeing what she does with Brazilian chickens.


October 2009

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