Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

The First Chicken in Copacabana


My parents emigrated from the UK to Rio de Janeiro in the late 50’s. If the countries are different now imagine back then; it was a completely different world. A good illustration of this  was their first purchase of a chicken on Brazilian soil:

In those days they were sold alive. The way it worked was that you chose one and it was delivered to your home a few hours later. It was adventurous enough for Mum to go to such a shop and it was a given that she would not take it home herself. No one would ever expect an elegant “madame” to walk around with a freshly killed chicken in the stylish Copacabana streets.

It was the maid who received the poultry packed in newspaper pages at the back door of the flat. After bringing the future meal in and lying it on her bathroom floor, she went to my mum to try to explain something that seemed urgent. In her very poor Portuguese, Mum understood that there was a problem in cutting the head off. The bulk of their cutlery had not been cleared by customs yet  and only knives they had at home were butter ones. This was unexpected because she assumed that the chicken would come from the shop plucked gutted and ready for stuffing.

Without thinking much about it, and delighted to have a maid to boss around the logical orders were to pour boiling water on its neck to soften the meat and then re-trying with a bit more strength. That would have certainly worked had the chicken not been alive. The shrieks coming from the maid’s quarters made her realize that there was something wrong. When she got there to check out what was happening she understood the morbidity of the situation. The bird was in agony and being dealt by an equally horrified maid, who must have thought that the “gringa” was mad but that orders were orders.

After disposing of the poor chicken, and without the option of buying a ready-made meal in a take away by the corner, they were obliged to eat out in a restaurant . The recently arrived couple must have laughed a lot about the event during their enjoyable evening out by the sea. I never thought of asking about the destiny of the was-to-be meal and would like to think that the maid took it home and provided a feast to her children in the favela.

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