Thanksgiving in Yemen! (Warning: graphic bird content below!)
As mentioned in the pizza post, it is very easy to bring food to restaurants and have them cook it. We took full advantage of that fact, and made ourselves a proper feast.
Growing up in America, meat has always been a separate entity from animals, in terms of how I perceive it. I see 4 chicken breasts wrapped in plastic in the supermarket, I don’t think of two live chickens clucking around with their barnyard friends. Seeing the animals you eat slaughtered and prepared in front of you makes one, in my opinion, more aware of the consequences of eating meat. I don’t intend to become a vegan, nor do I have a moral problem with eating meat, but I do think it is important to be conscious of the fact that you are ending another creature’s life to sustain your own.
For our dinner, we went to the outskirts of the city, to Souq al-Nugm and the animal market there. Because it is Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the market was filled with goats and sheep, ready for the slaughter.
At the market there is a row of bird merchants. Most stock only chicken, some have doves, duck, and geese. After some deliberation and no small amount of haggling, we chose three doves and a duck. Duck is a rare commodity in Yemen, and it cost 2500 riyal ($12.50), or the cost of 5 chickens. The doves were only 300 a piece.
The merchant pulled out two ducks, asked if I wanted one, and I said ‘yes, the fatter one please.’ He said, ‘These two are married.’ Ducks mate for life. That didn’t sound good to us, so I asked if he had any bachelors. He did, so we chose the single duck, so as not to break up a couple.
A few doors down from the bird shop was a small slaughter shop, where a group of young guys, all brothers, made fast work of any bird that was unlucky enough to pass through their gates. They were a jovial lot, and seemed to have a fun dynamic. They got a kick out of hearing us speak Arabic with a Yemeni accent.
A young man with a karate-kid headband slaughtered our birds, saying ‘bismillah ar-rahman ar-raheem’ – in the name of God, the beneficent, the merciful, as he slit their throats.
The kids here learn their trade young, and while our birds were being slaughtered, a boy no more than nine was busy helping another customer. He killed, skinned, and chopped a chicken into pieces in under three minutes. While he was hacking the drumstick from the thigh, the heart was still beating in the chest.
After scalding our birds for a minute, the karate kid put them in a de-featherer, which sounded like a washing machine on spin cycle. We bid the boys farewell, and hurried off to our next destination.
We took the duck and three doves to a busy rotisserie chicken joint near Tahrir. They happily skewered our birds and put them in the spit-roaster to get golden brown. An hour later, we returned and carried them home.
Meanwhile, Rach prepared cheddar-dill biscuits, apricot chutney, mashed potato and spinach, and I made squash-filled ravioli and gravy.
Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
All photos by Rachael Strecher