I haven’t eaten chicken for a while, and decided that instead of buying it already herbed and barbequed, as I had previously (about $4 Australian for half a chicken), I wanted to cook some myself.
The chicken butchers – I can’t think of another name for them, because chicken is their sole product – I have walked past many times, and often see live chickens being carried into them. When I looked in to one this morning he was packing plucked chickens into bags, so I went in and asked for one chicken. Instead of handing me a bag of already prepared chook (I suspect the one he was packing was an order from someone), he brought from behind the counter a healthy looking chook, put her on the scales, showed me a price on his calculator (25LE, $5 Australian), and when I agreed he then rearranged the chook, took up his knife, said something softly – I suspect a prayer of thanks for the chicken’s life – and killed her.
She then went into the amazing plucking machine, which looks like some sort of large washing machine from another era, filled with hot water in which the chook gets swirled around and comes out nearly ready to cook.
The butcher cuts off the feet and takes out the insides, some go into the scrap bin with the legs, but the best edible internals are given back to you with your chook. The butcher cuts it as you’d like, quarters for me, and I asked him to remove the sad looking bald head, keeping only the neck which Habibi will enjoy. The whole process takes about 5 minutes.
By the time I walked the three minutes home and began to split the pieces, to freeze half for later and cook some now, the chicken was still body temperature. Habibi was delighted with the innards, which I was not going to cook, though most Siwans do; I was kindly offered them at one meal but their taste is a bit strong for me.
Despite my twinge at seeing the chook get killed the moment I placed my order, I will probably buy chook again. The killing was probably much kinder than what most chooks in Australia get, it was certainly swift and the chook didn’t seem to know what was coming. You couldn’t get fresher meat, and while I doubt I’ll go back to my past vegetarian ways, seeing my food delivered like this will make me more mindful, and I will continue to only eat chicken and meat once a week or so.
Cost wise, the chicken is a better deal than much of the expensive meat here, and as Habibi will eat some it spreads the cost of meat for her; as it is, she eats more meat in a week than I do.
On a more serious note, we have been hearing missiles or bombs going off in Libya, Siwa being so close to the border. It is a chilling sound, and brings home what the people there are suffering. and how fortunate Egypt has been that its revolution did not get this violent. While there were deaths and injuries here, the numbers were low compared to what is happening just across the border.