Family Matters – What’s for dinner?

Jackson Biko thinks that kids raised in the city are missing out on some important real life lessons…

DinnerMy missus took our daughter to her village to meet her grandparents. Good for her social anchorage, for ethnic homing, sound grounding and so on. The day they came back they showed up with a chicken. A live, feisty thing. She said she had brought home a pet. I stifled a laugh. The Help tethered this riotous chicken on the balcony to spend the night, because really where else was this chicken going to spend the night? Not in one of the bedrooms, I can tell you.

At dusk the chicken started making a racket. I mean a right royal row. That’s what happens when a village chicken comes to the city: they can’t deal with the socialisation process. They can’t stand the bright lights; they imagine it’s Armageddon. So she started making such a rumpus that I couldn’t even watch Wolf Blitzer in peace, and, just like that, her fate was decided right there. The truth is she was going to be soup for the next day’s dinner but she had just accelerated her destiny. So as the Help rummaged the cabinets looking for the sharpest knife for the slaughter the Missus explained to our little girl that the chicken wasn’t actually a pet but food. I pretended not to listen to this conversation. But I heard her ask if she could watch and the mom said no. I called the Missus aside and told her to let her watch. We agreed that she could not watch the actual cutting but the aftermath. Anyway, moments later I heard the chicken squawk and flutter and protest, but the knife is mightier than a protest, and soon she was felled. The little girl was then allowed to go and see how the chicken was being de-feathered. She saw some blood.

The next morning she said she had had a dream. “Of the chicken?” I asked, thinking that she would never be the same again – that she would probably insist on becoming a vegan right there and then. “I dreamt of a cow,” she said.

“A cow?” I queried.

“Yes, from the village.”


“Will we eat the chicken?” she asked me.

“Of course,” I said, “It’s food!”

“What does it taste like?”

I told her that she had eaten chicken before and that they all taste the same. She thought about it for a second, looked confused and then she went off to play.

Raising kids in the city makes them miss out on so much. They will never slaughter a chicken like we did. Or watch men struggle to hold down a cow and slit its throat. Or bludgeon a pig’s head. Or twist a fowl’s neck. Or remove a fish’s guts. Or milk a goat. They will only see meat when it’s already steak. Fish when it’s a fillet. Chicken when it’s frozen. And milk in a packet. And they will imagine that that’s how life is, that things just land on the table or in the fridge. I think sometimes they have to see the dirty work. It can be fun.