postheadericon Kuire Ko Kura: Chickmanflu


Kathmandu made international news again, and in case you have been sequestered in a sekuwa house, here is the flash: bird flu is back.

According to such fine reporting agencies as worldpoultry.net and in.news.yahoo, chicken prices have dropped by 60%, no one in the army is eating any, and they have killed all the chicks in Bhaktapur.

Personally, I have had a love-hate relationship with chickens ever since I can remember. As a child, I hated Chicken McNuggets and always cried for cheeseburgers instead. As an adult, I was a diehard vegetarian for almost 25 years...until moving to Nepal. Here, how can I resist my mother-inlaw's Dashain mutton curry and roast pork? I can't.

And that little roast chicken shop across from Standard Charter in Jawalakhel is to die for, with a price tag of only Nrs. 450 for a whole sliced and diced bird slathered in sauce. Only "to die for" may be appropriate, as who knows where these birds come from that are served up in the valley these days. But regardless of the dangers, chickens in Nepal are yummy and taste like chickens did in pre-McDonalds America.

My mother used to make the 2nd best Chicken Cacciatore in all of Brooklyn. She learned from our Italian immigrant neighbor, who would feed a family of eleven from large pans of boiling sauce and chicken poured over fresh pasta. Our neighbor Maria Rossi was numero uno when it came to food in NYC, and no one ever worried about getting sick from eating at her house.

But that's the rub with food these days it seems...who can you trust? Is it wiser to trust the chicken tika shop down the gulli, or Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried in Durbarmarg? I hear the Colonel's birds are flown here from Brazil, and I assume that means plucked, chopped and frozen in the cargo hold, but who would know if a few Bhaktapurian wings got mixed in? Likewise, down at Samir's Tika Barn, how would one know the entire rotisserie was not full of diseased birds just waiting to make you sick?

You can't know, and even if you did know that the meat was technically "safe," that is no guarantee it won't kill you later. In my opinion, the only way you can ensure food safety in today's world is to know and trust the chef. As my Jewish grandma used to say, "food is love." Unfortunately, that was said in the context of my Irish mother throwing up Grandma's Matzo Ball soup one Passover holiday. But regardless, if food is cooked from the heart, its gunna be all right. Or so it used to be...

I'm not sure how any of us can do anything more than trust in the gods that what we eat, or breath, or are injected with won't make us sick these days. I raise the issue of flu injections only because tis the season, and that my wife got her annual flu shot at work this week, and since then, we have both been deathly ill. But in her Nepali way, she just sucked it up and kept on working, while myself (being of Jewish descent), just whined in bed for days on end.

But what I love about getting the flu is how you feel after the fever breaks and your head once again drains into the empty bell that it should be – fantastic, and happy to be alive! The smells of new construction dust and Pulchowk exhaust fumes once again fill your nostrils properly, and you think all is right with the world. To bad that feeling leads to risky behavior (again), and I am right back at it: eating Pheri Pheri chicken late nights with loads of rum & coke on the side.

So I suppose the "lesson learnt", and this is for all you NGO wonks out there, is that one should live each day as it were your last, as it seems that no matter how good is your health care, how well cooked is your chicken, or how well you wrestle down your drinking habits, you can still get on a bus and die at any moment.

First published in MyRepublica on 12/10/2011

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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