This evening, May 25, 2005, we are sitting at the dinner table eating chicken (kuku in Swahili) when my youngest daughter Butterfly holds up a wing and says with sudden realization, “Oh, Mommy, kuku is dead!”
“Yes, Honey, he is dead.”
She begins stroking the meat with sincerity and compassion as she says, “Are you alright, kuku?”
Eating chicken where we live is not what we are used to. In fact, every meal we eat has much more preparation time than our usual ‘frozen dinner’ in the States. Take chicken for example: Chickens don’t come frozen from a grocery store here in Kenya. Since most people don’t have refrigeration, the only way to keep a kuku fresh is to keep it… well… fresh! I think alive is as fresh as it gets!
If we want chicken, we first must walk from our house to a small market called Kiyondo. It’s at least 10 minutes walk from our house. We (Andrew 7, Makena 4, Butterfly 1 ½, myself, and a friend Gladys) select a nice big chicken, tie its feet, then start heading back home. It takes longer to get home because every few minutes someone wants to ‘pet’ the chicken or stop and make sure he feels ok.
As we walk back, we contemplate our fowl’s fate. Should we name him and keep him as a pet or slaughter him for dinner? Andrew wants to kill it and eat it, but Makena wants to name him and let him roam. Butterfly just likes petting it and really doesn’t have an opinion.
After getting home, we decide to let him run around the yard and experience some freedom—at least for today. Makena decides to give the chicken a name. Mr. Voldemort is locked up for the evening.
Day two, and Voldemort is cockadoodling bright and early. Makena wakes with such excitement, “Mommy! Voldemort woke me up,” she exclaims with great joy. I’m glad she was excited about it, but it was then I was certain of our feathered friend’s destiny. After lunch while Butterfly was napping, we decided to slaughter our dear kuku. Andrew studied birds in Science today (we home-school) so he was really involved in the process of feather plucking and disembowelment. And now this brings us back to the beginning of this post as to why Butterfly came to the realization that Valdemort was no more….
By Kate Brooks