Most of us have fond memories of our courtship, though after nearly half a century the edges have begun to blur; never did I dream that my wife would turn out to be a racist.
Some memories have abided though. Like we pinkies had to pay labola too but it came not in cattle but the sweat off your brow. I found myself being inveigled into helping my future father-in-law build their retirement house in the foothills of the Drakensberg during our university holidays.
Another was the memory of really quite tough Rhode Island chicken, redeemed only by the great culinary skills my darling’s mother had in baking chicken pie. She was a leader in the home industries association and we fed like royalty. But those damn chickens were tough! Shredded in a pie it was palatable, but I seem to have memories only of the taste of the crust; scrumptious. Luckily the good lady knew full well not to send me out axe in hand to gaaps the old hen; history would have panned out very differently. I might have lost a finger, not good for a future chiropractor, and she must have had visions of headless chickens flapping around the garden; and a lost future son-in-law.
Those who read this column will know we are into what the Poms call ‘proper eggs’; free range and fertile. That certainly comes with ‘challenges’, that lovely South African word that is trotted out in virtually every other sentence by politicians. This summer we had a heady array of raptors who really enjoy a ‘proper chicken’ just as much as I do. If you want to get close, upfront with an eagle, just try keeping chickens; a couple of months ago, the cockerels kicked up a huge fuss. I raced down the garden, around a corner, only to set upon no more than two metres away a very large bird enjoying his breakfast, and irate that I was intruding and claiming ownership. I’m the world’s worst ornithologist, loving birds but not having a clue what they are beyond a toppie and a white-eye; oh, and the drongos, of course, that love the sweet nectar that the bees are bringing in, just as much as I do. Half an hour in Roberts suggested a sparrow hawk, but really I have little idea.
Right now it is a small mammal that I have never seen, but it burrows like a rat and has a predilection for tiny chicks. It has moved in permanently, with the whole family I suspect, making their warren right under the water tank that has started to lean alarmingly like Pisa. It burrows right under the fencing, coming up many metres away with a hole about 5cm in diameter. It does not take adult birds and we are not sure whether the Little Monster, as it is known, is stealing eggs, or it is some other creature; perhaps the grandchildren. We have had invasions by mongooses and genets and other unknown creatures of the night.
You will gather from all of this that I am a very bad chicken farmer. We lose a lot of birds but we get enough to enjoy eggs Hilton every morning; we breakfast like royalty, but the elderly stomachs are beginning to demand that we dine like paupers. Kefir has made a vast difference on that front, but still small suppers are the order of the day.
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But I am digressing as the elderly are allowed to do; back to that racist wife. I know she helped her mother with baking those memorable Rhode Island chicken pies, and we all devoured them with relish, even the city-slicker. Fast-forward fifty years. Now we are faced with adorable fluffy chicks that grow up not only into young hens that provide yet more proper eggs, but randy and raucous roosters that are quite beyond the pail; off with their heads.
With the help and encouragement of a friend I have learned to do it. The only problem is that the good wife ate the lily white flesh of the Rhode Island reds with relish, but she will not even sample a tender Sweetwaters Zulu cockerel. I do have to admit that the flesh is quite unlike the tender white meat from up north; it is dark brown and far more like a pheasant or guineafowl. Is Africa not full of delicate contradictions? Racists always lose out in one way or another; the flavour and texture of a young rooster is to die for.
This chilli chicken recipe is our favourite.
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