They all looked at me in horror, “what do you mean you hate chicken, you’re black!” That statement was made as if being black was synonymous with liking chicken in the same way lovers of supermalt would say to someone else “but you’re African, how can you hate supermalt.”
In any case, there was no way I was going to pretend I ate chicken just to prove my Afro-Caribbean heritage. At this time, I never ate KFC, Nandos, chicken salad and definitely not chicken soup. I know I have offended many aunties of mine who have cooked for me and I have refused their chicken or just ate my plate of rice by itself. I started going off chickens whilst I was in Nigeria not only because I was afraid of them but also because they had danced on my head courtesy of Uncle Jack. The initial period when I stopped eating chicken about the age of 7 or 8 were tough as those around me believed that having no chicken with your meal was like punishing yourself. Thank God I hadn’t chosen to become vegetarian; my Nigerian family would have thought I was seriously ill or something.
To be honest, I haven’t always disliked eating chicken. I used to find its soft meat really tasty especially the foot. However I owe my aversion for its taste to my dear Uncle Jack. On this faithful day, I had returned from doing some chores for my aunty. Uncle Jack was in the kitchen again; should have been a really bad sign but I was young and naïve. My aunt had finished preparing a stew and it smelt really good. Like Esau when he sold his birthright to Jacob, I was famished! I wanted to have something to eat so badly.
But I knew the chickens had been killed that morning (I was given the wonderful feather pulling job) and I definitely didn’t want to eat any of it. Uncle Jack offered me a piece of juicy meat from the stew.
It was hot, smelt good and seemed so appealing. I reminded him that I would rather starve than eat a piece of chicken but Uncle Jack explained that this was not chicken but something else. I was really hungry and at the age of 9, I still trusted my dear uncle. So I picked up the meat and ate it. It was weird, it smelt of chicken which made me sick initially but had a bit of a peculiar taste. I thought perhaps the chicken smell just came from the chicken stock used in the stew.
I had almost finished the meat when my aunt walked in. She looked at me and Uncle Jack, she could see the mischief in his face and she gave me a look of pity. She knew straight away that what I had in my hand was a piece of chicken and if I found out I would be really upset and probably throw up.
She broke the news to me gently, “Sade, don’t be upset but what you’re eating right now is chicken.”
My contented face turned to horror. I looked to Uncle Jack to say it wasn’t so but he only burst out laughing. Then he said, “it’s not just chicken you’re eating but a specific part of the chicken”.
“What part?” I asked.
“Guess?” He replied.
I would have forgiven him if he had said the foot or wing or guts or even the bottom. But there was one particular part of the chicken that scared me more than anything and my Uncle Jack knew it.
“The head” he replied.
My aunt’s arm caught me as I swung round and she was quick with her bowl to catch my vomit. This time she told Uncle Jack off who was just laughing proudly that he was able to fool me twice.
From that day I vowed to my aunt I was never going to eat a piece of chicken again and definitely not from stew or soup where I would not be sure of which piece I was eating. I have spent many years since then trying to avoid offending people when they have offered me rice and stew. I have improved whilst at uni with my dislike of chicken especially since we spent a lot of time at Nandos.
But still, if you offered me chicken soup or stew, I would rather go hungry any day. My birthright stays with me 😉
To be continued…