Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

"Catch A Chicken" (Review of a Cookery Book)

Ebow Daniel

A Touch Of Nokoko has taken a week's break. The column's aficionados will doubtless enjoy Ebow Daniel, the famed Ghanaian wit.
To prepare a chicken meal, an ancient cookery book just come to hand advises what needs doing first in the following terms: "Catch a chicken".

Catch A Chicken could not have been addressed to white folk many of whom would not ever have seen a live chicken, let alone catching one. There, chicken is bought off the peg, so to speak, and it comes ready for the pot. If not them, Catch A Chicken must have been meant for us, the other half of the world.

But the author of Catch A Chicken, a white lady, does not say how one catches chicken. We are deceived if we think chicken is just there to be caught. It takes physical training to match the speed and adroitness of those feathered bipeds, exertions which are clearly beyond many. No, the surer bet is to wait till the bird has gone to bed at night and come at it unawares. The things that can be done under cover of darkness!

Its neck broken by wringing or cutting, the deceased has to be deplumed or defeathered or "dressed" as the author puts it. Isn't it strange that when chicken has been stripped naked it is then supposed to be "dressed"? It is proof that the world of chicken is different from ours, for with us to be denuded of all protective cover is to be in a state of undress. As if the difference between bird and man was not that clear, some have sought in the past to feed us as they would any bird, offering us poultry feed, treated yellow corn indeed!

Further to defeathering, the application of warm water is half the job done, according to Catch A Chicken. The book does not say, but children like to help, and they are welcome so long as they do not talk while at it lest a fresh stock of feathers springs up, if grandmother is to be believed. Catch A Chicken has much to say about bird-surgery, first the legs to be amputated and "discarded".

The story could not have reached madam-author, of the recently married who was sent packing, who arrived home complaining how mean hubby had been insisting on seeing even the chicken legs in the soup.

"Impossible", said Mama.

"Quite possible", countered Dada wearing all the insignia of life-long battering, but for once standing up to she-who-must-be obeyed: "If you hadn't brought up your daughter on all impaired. those fancy cooking from fancy books, all this wouldn't be happening." And turning to his daughter: "It's not meanness at all, my dear, only that one man's poison is another's meat. Or how shall I say it for you to understand? Obi ni akondodze nye dompo no nson."

To think that Catch A Chicken actually prescribes that the intestines be consigned to the dustbin: The neck too!! Was the book really meant for us? The expatriate community in colonial West Africa may have been the target-readership for all we know.

Stewing or roasting or making a soup, Catch A Chicken goes into considerable detail discussing the process.

We had the book opened at the right page last Christmas, rather anxious for some fancy cooking for a change, all the children ready to help, only there was no chicken. The irony of it is that many of us gave "critical support" to the "on-going process" ab intio because of the gourmet in us. At the time we could barely keep pace with those speedsters. And we were promised Ior were we not? The readings this last Christmas were far from comforting: clocked at 70-cedi- metres per christmas three christmases ago, chicken were running five times as fast this recent occasion, faster than ever before, some even doing the 500-cedi-metre dash, while our ability to keep pace remains seriously

Catch A Chicken is quite a readable effort. The pity is that it is out of print. At the going prices, still more difficult to come by are the ingredients, not least chicken for those several dishes, though this is hardly the fault of this colourfully illustrated manual.

(Culled from the Catholic Standard of Ghana).

Doctor's strike bites hard

The Nigerian Medical Doctors' strike, entering its third week this week is biting the country very hard. Reports from Lagos indicate that the strike has now gained currency throughout the Country contrary to the Federal Military Government's statement that only Doctors in Teaching Hospitals had gone on strike. Earlier, it was reported that hospitals in the Northern states, particularly Sokoto as well as those in Rivers and Cross Rivers states were not affected by the strike as Doctors were seen performing their normal duties. But when our correspondent visited these states, he found the hospitals almost deserted and was told that the doctors here had not gone on strike earlier with their colleagues in other parts of the country because of "some communication breakdown. Now that is over and the Doctors here have joined their colleagues" explains an official in one government hospital in Sokoto.

Reports also indicate that death rates have now reached an alarming proportion, putting the figures at over 1,000 patients per every 24 hours. Meanwhile, other organizations seemed poised to follow the Doctors' path if the government fails to do something about this critical situation soon. The Nurses' Association for instance have threatened to pack out if the torture reportedly said to have been meted out to some Doctors by government officials is not stopped. Warned an indignant nurse: "Rather than help matters, the present brutal and uncompromising attitude of government will only go to make matters worse. A government that is human negotiates. It torture." does not Attempts by Our correspondent to get government officials to comment on the situation proved abortive, and the pinch of the strike continues with government still maintaining its rigid stance that doctors who refused to obey the ultimatum to return to work have been sacked.

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