How do you like your chicken?

Valley Chickening
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It takes suffering to come to terms with yourself, connect with your deep soul and understand your insignificance in the grand scheme of the galaxies.

When you are eighteen, fresh out of school, fresh out of money and fresh out of purpose, you desire to have a good girl, what Beres Hammond would call a real cutie.

In my days they used to make good reggae music and we’d often steal lines from hit songs and glue them on paper for our crushes. It didn’t take me long to know that the lines never worked, not for girls staring into the onset of their twenties, their prime time when their buttocks are smooth and their cheeks spotless. And grip, okay, stop it.

What worked, I realized, was something more real; deep-fried Sanford chicken. I didn’t have the money for that and I missed open chances a great deal. This suffering made me swear to look for something eerily deep in the women I wanted to date; stuff like an evening night out in a low-key bar where we’d discuss the similarities of the insanities of Jonathan Kariara and my good boy Dambudzo Marechera.

Something else the suffering taught me, was to hate chicken.

To be honest, I don’t like chicken. I believe men should not, must not, ought not to eat chicken. Men should take something that takes some effort to slaughter. Something that can be hunted in a forest. Not a domesticated fowl (can forgive if it is a turkey because turkeys can be nasty).  

But, I noticed our future wives will not necessarily be good cooks, and were likely to hide behind an array of spices that can cause unknown diseases, and would get away with it.

When I see a man-eating chicken, I start to understand why we have become wimpish, to a point of axing a helpless girl. 

But I have a colleague. And she likes chicken. Anytime we go for lunch, she is constantly eating chicken; roasted, curry, fried, deep fried, you name it. And since it comes in such big portions, it makes no sense ordering another portion of proteins. She likes rice for starch and I can’t help, but order some fries. I like my fries on the dry and crunchy side, but most hotels serve them moist and greasy. And we share the chicken.

Now, at my age, you feel like you are betraying your ancestors if you eat a broiler. For chicken, we like kienyeji. But kienyeji chicken is so expensive and only available in hotels and restaurants on the periphery of the CBD. The only place you can eat kienyeji chicken in town is at Kosewe or Branch. They do a terrific job with it. In the rare occasion, I eat chicken, I love wrestling the chewy, tough chicken at Kosewe, and splashing the soup on whoever I am sharing the meal with.

Yet Valley Coffee, at Yala Towers, at the far end of Biashara Street and Koinange Street (next to CJs), often tries with their sizzling drumsticks. The drumsticks are served on a pan placed on a pan of wooden tray. It arrives sizzling hot, the pan emitting smoke and the sizzling sound, adds some dramatic flair to the meal and everyone in the restaurant is forced to look your way, as they regret ordering nduma, in their ill-advised desire to be healthy. Curiously, I don’t remember any aroma from chicken, since broilers are pretty odourless. And when it comes to food, the aroma adds some magic to it. But that is beside the point.  

The drumsticks are fried with a concoction of vegetables, mainly, capsicum (the really crap thing with no taste and doubtful nutritional value), some white onions, cucumbers or the courgette (never been sure which one gets cooked, which one is eaten raw), some tomatoes and of course, the decorative lettuce, that nobody touches. Whatever sauce the Valley Coffee chef uses, adds some magic to the chicken and makes the vegetables all the more savoury, if decadent. Even though the drumsticks can be flat in taste, from time to time, I think that boils down to the quality of the chicken, not the skills of the chef.

Valley Chickening

I’m addicted to fries. Rice is for breakfast. 

If I am to enjoy a meal of chicken, I prefer mine the way my old man did his: smoked. For the old man, in his carnivorous days, we would kill the cock and all the thighs were his. We would put some longish skewer through the thighs, and put it above the fireplace, to be smoked by some quality firewood, and three days later, what you ate was royal food. That smoked chicken (and even fish) was the best thing in the world. Eat it with brown ugali, and you will begin to have an idea of heaven. 

We no longer smoke fish, like our ancestors and that is why lifestyle diseases are upon us.

Also, I remember, this ex I had who once made chicken for us (me and my boys). She sent me to get this spice called Chicken Shalimar, to date my boys make fun of her effort. Every other day, one of the boys calls me and goes like, “nataka utuundie chicken shalimar…” Good thing it was good. But, I noticed our future wives will not necessarily be good cooks, and were likely to hide behind an array of spices that can cause unknown diseases, and would get away with it. 

Lately, wifey too bakes the chicken laced with several things including honey, and it often tastes decadent: charges that to one of the perks that come with marriage.

But, what I have seen, for broilers to taste like some food, you need about 69 spices; including coconut milk, ginger, garlic, black pepper, and in the end the taste of the chicken is like 10 percent and the rest is an assortment of spices that can benumb your palate.  It goes down well with rice, though. But if you are a Kisii, Luo or Luhyia man, it always tastes fake. It doesn’t taste authentic.

I consider something proper food, depending on how it tastes when boiled and salted. You can’t boil and salt a broiler. Even a starving prisoner would hate that. Hence, we should avoid broilers after hitting 26. And build in the countryside and raise some proper kienyeji chicken that we should go pick every end month when we pay our parents a visit.





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