I remember those trips to the market. Walking to the section where the chicken sellers converged. But before we even got there, you could smell them. And hear them too. The chickens, I mean ... not the sell--
Oh, never mind!
Finally, we would see them jammed together in cages. They always looked like there were too many of them there in a cage. But, we would pick the ones we wanted, and depending on the "plan" for that day, the person selling the chicken could slaughter them, remove the feathers and clean them for a fee. Or we could take them home and you know ... do the same thing. Except that we didn't get paid. Obviously.
Afterwards, we would season and cook the chicken. More often than not, it would be made into some kind of stew. And then, came the moment of truth:
Who ate what part?
For the children, we didn't get to choose. We got all the weird parts like the chicken wings, etc. One of my aunties loved eating the head and the hands (or are they legs?)
But, hands down, the person who usually ate the chicken head was my father. No controversy. It just was. Why? Because he was the head of the family. End of story.
We did not have to make the same decision if we bought that imported chicken/turkey (the frozen one) because the head was always missing, along with other vital parts that Nigerians consider delicacies. And I realized that the same thing happens here in the US too.
You walk into a grocery store and more than likely, the chicken is already wrapped in clear plastic. No head in sight. In fact, some kids who grew up here apparently don't even know what a real chicken looks like or where it comes from.
No, kids! Chickens are not raised in Wal-Mart!
I guess, if you take that into consideration, then you can understand why seeing a whole tilapia fish would freak out some cashiers. They're so used to seeing just parts of the chicken AFTER processing (e.g. chicken breast and wings) and have no idea how a chicken goes from live animal to seasoned, cooked and nestling among vegetables on your plate.
Just as with other aspects of Nigerian culture (depending on what part of the country you're from), eating certain parts of an animal depends on seniority, family taboos, etc. It makes me wonder how much of these cultural beliefs and traditions are passed on to the next generation, and which ones are lost in translation, so to speak. Kind of like that coconut water myth.
I haven't laid eyes on a chicken head in years, but believe me, I have no desire to eat it. Drumsticks, thighs and breast meat are good enough, thank you!
Your turn: Who ate the chicken's head in your family? Was there any particular method for deciding who ate what part? Please share.
*Image Credit: Flickr