Ok I didn't actually kill a chicken, but I kind of did.
After scanning our cupboards and fridge this morning, I realized that it was time for an errand run, my first since arriving. We've been eating out every night, which has been convenient and delicious, but I'm really starting to miss being in the kitchen. I arranged with the hotel to have a driver and car for the afternoon, made an easy-to-follow ordered list of shops I needed to visit, and off we went. I still don't have a phone so at each stop the driver motioned to me where I would find him, which ended up working really well.
First stop was the ATM, then a nail salon for a much needed manicure. The manicure ran me Rs. 450, or $7, a very welcome change from the $25 - 30 I'm used to spending. It wasn't the most hygenic place I've ever been to, but it's not like they were doing open heart surgery so it was fine with me and, for the record, so was the manicure.
Since we are in the tail end of apartment hunting, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking out some local furniture and decor stores. We are choosing between three properties right now, and one of them has a large, rectangular room which would need some nice, big pieces to fill it out. Check out some of the stuff I found:
Next I went to Starbucks (I'm still reeling over the loss of my Starbucks Gold card) for a predictable Grande Iced decaf Americano, then headed to finish up my trip with two grocery spots that were recommended by a friend. The first place looked like a bodega in Queens, but it was filled with packaged good and food products, both local and imported. I was able to get almost everything on my shopping list with the exception of fruits/veggies (which I had planned to get at the stall right next door), and chicken breasts, which I realized I'd be on my own in locating. A few things I was suprised to learn about grocery shopping here: grocery delivery is the norm, eggs are kept at room temperature, and garlic bulbs are teeny-tiny.
After stocking up there I headed to a veg/fruit shop where the shopkeeper stressed that I should really stock up on strawberries and figs (by stressed, I mean he repeatedly began false bagging the items while nodding at me and smiling). I took his suggestion and I'm glad I did because YUMMMMMMY :-) It's a shame I don't have my canning supplies here, I could make some amazing fig jam right now!
With only the chicken breasts left on my list, I set out on a quest with the driver. He first took me to a take-away restaurant which had a familiar point-and-choose menu consisting of different fried chicken selections. After communicating that I needed chicken "for cooking", he nodded in acknowledgement and we went to stop number two, just a few minutes away from our hotel. It was a take-away stall as well, consisting of a counter, a scale, and stacked palettes of eggs on either side. Above it was a banner that had pictures of chickens and eggs.
When I walked up there was no one there, so I just stood, staring. Behind the counter was a chopping block, a tree stump with a knife in it that had probably been there for years, and a pile of discarded skin and wings to the right. The rear of the store was not visible, though I knew there was a door opened because a very warm, poultry-scented breeze wafted over me. After a minute of waiting I gave a little "hello?!" and a guy popped right up; he had been sleeping on the floor.
I told him what I wanted, and we sorted out the weight. Then he said, "about 5 minutes", and disappeared. I was expecting him to go to wherever it was that they kept their refrigerated, prepared meat cuts and emerge with my order, but there was just silence. I pieced it together at just about the same I heard him grabbing my half-kilo of "chicken breast". Seconds later he produced a live chicken, put it on the counter scale, asked me if I thought it was ok ("yup, looks good" was about all I could do) and disappeared again, with the knife this time.
Returning with a familiar looking chicken carcass, he asked a few questions about how I wanted it cut and nimbly went to work, chopping it up with skilled precision on the block. He flung the wings into the pile, stripped the skin off, and then double bagged it, swinging it to be sure it wouldn't drip. He weighed it once more and told me the price, Rs. 96 ($1.50). He wiped his hands off on a dry rag, took my Rs. 100 bill, and handed me Rs. 4 change from his pocket with semi-bloody fingers. With that I was off, a hot bag of meat on my lap as I rode back to the hotel, thinking about the clucking chicken and the chopping block, hoping that it was safe for me to eat and that the kill wouldn't be in vain.