Last Saturday, August 20th, marked the one-year anniversary of my arrival in Cameroon. Feeling both blessed and accomplished, I decided to throw a small party for myself on Wednesday after school. I invited a motley assortment of friends: my boss, neighbor, and close friend Lois; the Korean PE teacher who recently moved to my area of town; the new Bible teacher at RFIS; and a good friend from Cameroon who coaches basketball at RFIS. Only after making these plans did I realize that I was the only U.S. citizen who would be there; my two Canadian colleagues formed the majority.
I look forward to coming home from school on Wednesdays to a kitchen full of fresh fruits and vegetables, purchased at the market and cleaned by my very efficient househelp, Doris. This week, I added chicken to my usual items including papayas, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. Cameroonians often serve chicken at celebrations, as it's more expensive than fish or beef, so I decided that I would follow that cultural norm. However, this was the first time I had asked Doris to buy a whole chicken in the market, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I've been to the main market a few times and smiled at the vendors gripping docile chickens by their feet. My stomach is strong, but I still didn't want to deal with feathers, so I wrote "1 whole chicken, cleaned" on my list and hoped for the best.
When I came home from school, the chicken was in Ziploc bag in my freezer because I still haven't explained the difference between the fridge and the freezer to Doris. Immediately, I shook my head-it still had its feet. "Okay," I calmed myself, "There's a lot of meat on the feet. Maybe I can boil them for broth." I pulled the chicken out, hoping it wasn't too solid yet, and started thawing it in the sink while I chopped and liquefied chiles for its sauce.
With the sauce ready, I steeled myself to hack the chicken into chunks that would fit into my frying pan. While maneuvering the bird so that I could chop off the feet, I flipped it over and jumped back, yelling to no one in particular, "It still has a head!" Only slightly disturbed, I continued my dismemberment, discovering along the way that the organs had been left in along with the head and the feet. I slipped them into a plastic bag with the head and feet and left Doris a note that she could take them home if she wanted them. It wouldn't be that hard to learn how to prepare and eat them, but sometimes I don't have the energy for such undertakings.
With the most unpleasant task over, I browned and simmered the bird, boiled rice with herbs, sliced an avocado and set out the table for my friends. Bursting with Mexican flavor, the chicken was a hit—one friend who doesn't even usually like chicken complimented me on it. It looks like this little adventure may need to be repeated.