Monday, July 19, 2010

The Chicken Story - 22 June 2008

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from June 2008.

Hi Mom, 
The Liu family are very very hospitable and generous people; they remind me of Pascal and Anna- how excited they were to show us around Belgium.   I have already made some unforgettable experiences with Christine and her parents.  It's unlike me, but I am having short moments of homesickness- like yesterday when we walked up to Christine's cousins' house.  A lovely girl my age and her older brother were at a makeshift kitchen counter just outside the front door of the shack.  As she turned around to greet us I saw she was holding the the bound feet of a chicken.  Her brother briefly turned his head to acknowledge us; as he turned back he twisted around the chicken's head and snapped it's neck.  I instinctively threw my hands up in front of my face and almost screamed-- instead just sucking in tons of air.  They thought my reaction was hilarious.
When I nervously, incredulously, asked Christine what they were doing, her cousin instead answered innocently, "We' eat.  We eat chicken for dinner..........tonight."  

Despite not having eaten much that day, and having walked-- a lot-- my appetite grew smaller and smaller as I remember Christine's dad telling me we were going to have dinner at his brothers' house.  Throughout the course of our hour-long visit I tried to ignore the innumerable breaches of standard kitchen health code.  While playing with Christine's eldest cousin's baby I tried to invent some kind of genuine reason that would excuse me from the evening meal.  

Christine's adorable nephew "David" with Mrs. Liu

Heat stroke was the only thing that came to me, which seemed very plausible as it was 110 degrees in the shade (even at 5:30pm) and humidity hovering at about 85%.  The Liu family are amomg the most kind and genuine people I have met- so ready to share everything they have, though it be so little- and I really did not want to offend them, but after witnessing their food preparation techniques, I sincerely could not picture myself walking away from that meal without the avian bird flu- or at least a serious case of the chicken pox.
So you can imagine that it was MUCH to my relief when Christine's dad came in and declared the men (him and his 3 brothers) had reached a consensus: There was not enough food in the house for all 17 adults, so they had made reservations for half of us down at a local restaurant.
Our mode of transportation to the restaurant and my experience there is a whole other story.

I miss you, and your delicious, normal food. :)

As you can see by the arrows painted on the pavement, the two brothers driving us both drove the wrong direction on the freeway to get to the restaurant.  A short cut, no doubt.

Walking up to the restaurant, we passed a man cracking mussels on the ground, then depositing them into a plastic tub and some very used Styrofoam coolers.  My first clue that outside the major cities health codes just aren't enforced the same. 

The restaurant consisted of a main kitchen, patio, and public dining room, as well as several private dining huts with large round tables.  The entirety of the structure was built on stilts over a pond on which floated a variety of aquatic plants including lilies.  

Also featuring a floating chicken coop...

...a full-service aquarium...
...and snakes!

This is the puffer fish that I picked out for my dinner from the aquarium out front.  The guy caught him and puffed him up in front of me just to demonstrate his health, I guess.


  1. OMG, Shirah. What a story. You are a brave girl. I love your blogs. Shame when you travel to places like this you can't take along your own food and feign some abnormality that requires a special diet! LOL
    Thanks for the fun read. Sue

  2. Well, actually, Sue, from now on I DO have an excuse! I found out a few months after returning from China that I have Celiac Disease - a severe allergy to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Furthermore, I can't handle any grains right now except a bit of white rice now and then. I haven't been on any major international trips since realizing all this, so I'm praying that when I go to Russia this January I'll be able to figure out how to get food I can eat!! I refuse to let it hold me back!

    Thanks for reading :)

  3. Do you eat or have you tried Quinoa? It's gluten free and super high in protein. You can cook it and mix anything into it; meat, veggies, spices and it's like a mild rice or pasta that is a clean palet you can add what you like to it. Another good thing, Betty Crocker now makes cake mixes that are gluten free also.

  4. I haven't tried Quinoa yet....I've been looking for it lately. Found it in Fred Meyer, but label said it was processed in a plant that also processes wheat - so that's a no-go. I HAVE tried the Betty Crocker cakes/cookies/brownies and LOVE them! It's so great that once in a while I can enjoy all the sweet, baked goods that everyone else gets to eat :)

    Thanks for the suggestion!


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