I imagine several of you shrugging your shoulders and thinking, “Yea, so what else is new?” But…for me, it’s still fairly surprising when I recognize that I am indeed a hypocrite; call it naiveté or a lack of self-awareness or what have you. It’s silly; really, there’s evidence all around… e.g. I actually have a Justin Bieber song downloaded to my iTunes. But there’s something about Albania that brings some more significant hypocrisy into the limelight. The most recent and clearly most blatant example lies herein.
After about a month now living with my host family, I offered to prepare a dinner. So I came up with my grocery list in Shqip and we compared what my family had at home and what we’d need to buy:
• Pulë fileto/chicken breasts
• Djath/cheese, feta preferred
• Gjalp, pak/Butter, just a little bit!
• Qepë/green onions
• Bukë crumbs/Bread crumbs and yea…I don’t know the word for crumbs yet
• Salate jeshila/salad greens
• Vaj dhe uthull/oil and vinegar
Side note: Who’s mouth is watering at the idea of feta-stuffed chicken over a strawberry and greens salad? Well…I can tell you, it is DELISH!
My host-sister, Jirina, and I were off to the market, strawberries and frozen chicken breasts were all we needed! (But since I’m an impulse buyer, we also got almonds, pretzel sticks and some chocolate to make desert! Jealous, much?) Back at home, we thawed the chicken breasts and I taught her how to prepare everything. Maybe on another occasion, I’ll explain my dumbass way of making bread crumbs. I’ll just say this…there are simpler ways and I am an idiot. But back to the story at hand….The oven we use for baking is actually outside the house in a smaller kuzhine/kitchen. This kuzhine is also where the mama hens and turkey are sitting on their eggs to hatch. (I’m pretty sure there’s a term for this, but I can’t remember it the moment. Please forgive me…the Shqip brain infusion is making my English go all wonky.)
So we walk into the kuzhine and what a lovely surprise!!! One of the mama hen’s babies have hatched so I went over to the crate where she and her 20…that’s right twenty/njezet baby chicks were peep, peep, peeping away! I preheated the oven to 350° and I ran back to the house for my camera. Jirina indulged me as I held a few of the chicks and cooed over them. I was instantly in love with all 20! I was happy as a school-girl and totally deluded! That is, until Jirina turned the camera to the meal I had just prepared and took a snap shot of the stuffed chicken breasts that were to be our dinner. Oh. Holy. Shitballs. My mind raced ahead a few months….oh this sweet little thing is going to be food!
I’d like to think I didn’t make the connection earlier since we had bought the chicken breasts from the market. But seriously, I was totally caught off guard! Well duh, Melia! Where do you think all the meat in the chicken soup/gjellë pulë had been coming from??? Well, of course I knew it was our chickens…but I still have yet to see one’s neck snapped, body de-feathered and gutted for the table. So I’m still removed from the steps between farmyard and dining room. Ignorance is Bliss.
So, will this recognition stop me from eating chicken or turkey or beef or even veal? Ummm….Nope! I can admit it. Does it make me a little sad? Sure, but being sad doesn’t stop a growling tummy and I already told ya… Feta-stuffed chicken is delicious! So, this is me…. a chick-loving, chicken-devouring hypocrite. But….based on some good advice I’ve received, I won’t be giving names any of those sweet little buggers. Well, that is, other than Senorita Polly McPeeps who I’ve smuggled into my bedroom! She’s going to love me forever.
Peace and Love