Sunday, 7 February 2010

Two very raw chickens

My mother was fuming today.

She was throwing a dinner party for her girlfriends.

Having spent years between the two countries, my mother wanted to impress her friends with a simple, yet elegant meal-English style. Some light salad to start with, followed by a shoulder of lamb with vegetables. A lemon meringue pie to finish. And some G&T to wash it all down with. Lovely.

“And they.... she said- they just insult me like that!”

So what could those pleasant ladies do that upset my mother so badly?

“They brought me chickens”- she said. The skype connection can play up at times, so I had to ask her to repeat. They brought her chickens. Two raw chickens.

I love it when people do something so bizarre. Something so unexplainably bizarre that it does not fit in any category of the weird human behaviour that I have ever heard of.

Why would anyone come to a dinner party and bring two raw chickens? My mother reckons it is because the woman wanted to humiliate her. To be honest, I tried but could not think of any explanation to assure her that it was meant as a good gesture. Thank you for inviting me to your dinner party. Here is some raw poultry for you. Just in case you had no money to buy any meat for tonight. Or, perhaps tomorrow, when you have nothing to eat (because you had spent all your money cooking this nice meal for us) you could make yourself a chicken soup. I guess, that makes sense. If you are crazy.

In an attempt to reassure her,I reminded my mother of some of my Azeri friends here, in the UK, who would often show up at my house with bags of food. And then get busy in my kitchen chopping up some tomatoes and herbs and brewing tea. At first, I was not sure how to take that. I could, of course, view it as a lack of trust. They know that there is no hope to eat anything tasty at my place, so they had to bring their own food. But I learned to appreciate my friends’ offerings. They bring stuff from Russian and Turkish shops. Tea leaves and flat bread, special Russian style gherkins and herrings...stuff I miss and cannot easily get. And, knowing them, I know it is not meant as an insult.

But there is, indeed, something about the way some people can put you down.

The other day, my child was invited to a birthday party by someone in her class. I did not really know the mother or the girl, but my child was keen to go and I phoned back for directions.

“I live three houses down from the pub”.- the mother told me in a pleasant tone.

I knew the pub. On the right hand side there were tiny, or if you are an estate agent, cosy cottages. On the left hand side, however, there was this one magnificent house. The one I always referred to as “the dream one”. I asked if their house was three houses towards the tool shop. Which would mean one of those cosy cottages. And this is the moment when some other woman would have allowed herself a little superior laugh. But not this one. She did not laugh. Neither did she say:
"Oh, no, my dear. It is that F- off big house you all drive past and wish you had".

No, she did not mention any of that. She simply said it was in the other direction.
It is a yellow house”- she said.

Yellow. That is what I call a proper lady. I bet she would never show up at somebody’s house with a raw chicken or two. You see, if she were this one Azeri friend I used to have, she would have said something that would make me realize straight away just how expensive and big that house was. The friend who once asked me if she, her visiting brother, the brother’s child and her husband could visit me on a Tuesday night. I used to work full time at a new job then and would get pretty tired by the time I made it home, to suburbs, from the city. I told her that of course, they could. But since it was a Tuesday night and I was tired, I could only offer something simple for a meal. Not the Azeri style feast.

"Oh.- she said- Oh....Can you not cook a proper meal?"

I will buy the ingredients”- she said.

So yes, she was the kind of friend who would have, indeed, shown up with some raw poultry. You might have noticed I said a friend I used to have. I am getting old these days and realizing that I don’t actually have to be friends with people who bring raw chickens to my dinner parties. I can afford to let them go.


  1. Aptly titled and drawn. Loved it! Sharon.

  2. I would never think of me showing up for dinner at someone's place with raw chicken. Not even cooked chicken. A dessert maybe. Even better if I baked it myself.
    And yes, there are some people who are better described as "a friend I used to have".

  3. Oh no, not the raw chicken. They could have baked it at least :)
    Inconsiderate people come in all shapes, sizes and nationalities. They are usually unaware of boundaries with other people and/or insecure themselves. They rarely get better with time, so it makes sense to let go of them when possible. I just let go of some people myself. Feel better already :)

  4. Strange behaviour indeed. But long ago I found the antidote to it - don't invite people round. Life is so much simpler - no raw chicken incidents, no boring conversations you've already had with them several times, no missing important football matches on telly. Unfortunately, my wife is a much nicer person than I am and doesn't share my philosophy, which means that I'm still subjected to dinner party tedium. I never understand those people who, when asked who would be their ideal dinner gusts, choose Einstein, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and so on. I'd just want someone who'd make me laugh.

  5. @Bill Kirton
    You are absolutly right,but this antidote doesn't work with people,like me.It is desease,really genetic desease,how many times I promised myself not waste time....

  6. I still don't get why on earth that woman showed up with two raw chikens at someone's house!!! But... If that happened to me I'd gladly take the chikens and, I don't know, cook them some other time or whatever. Maybe it's cultural, but I don[t see it as an offensive gesture, it's just plain CRAZY.

  7. @ Bill@: ah, those are the people who also claim they never watch TV and only listen to classic music. Some guys just have this need to appear clever and would go to any extent to prove it.

    @Rosalina and everyone else...Just had a comment from someone via Facebook telling me that her sister in law once gave her frozen chicken parts for Christmas! as a gift! Wrapped in Christmas paper and all that. :) So clearly, it is not a cultural thing.

  8. It would be helpful to know the background of the "raw chicken" lady. In some places (rural villages come to mind) it might be a perfectly valid and even expected behavior for a guest to contribute that way to the meal. Poor woman was probably expecting a compliment!

  9. No, Riyad, sorry.. No rural villagers were involved. I should also add ( something i forgotten about until right now) that just before they left, they expressed just how happy they were that it was such a light dinner. That they did not over-eat. :) One last touch. :)

  10. Very funny and bizarre. I find Azeris are very fussy about food,meaning azeri person only wants to have the azeri meal, no deviations from that accepted. and they can be very rude if served unexpected food. Once we had a company night out in the nicest italian restaurant in Baku. One of the girls never been to the one before so was asking to explain meals on the menu. When we did explain she exclaimed : "men basa dusmedim, men restorana MAKARON yemeye gelmisem?" :-)

  11. @Anonymous: Yes. That is quite a typical behavior, but really I guess comes from ignorance. I also often find that people who are not experienced in a situation, want to act cool by putting down something they just dont understand, or know. So by making fun of the menu at that restaurant, she was trying to hide the fact that she had no idea what to order. Or what the dishes mean.

  12. Azeries are very conservative and really fussy aboutfood.I know lot of people,wich never tried something new or unusual.Their fancy question is:Is it true our food is the best? Or,I heard that food from the Western Countries azeries can't eat?