Eating the Chicken: Conserving and Recycling

Living in a small rural Oaxaca, Mexico, village is a lot about conservation, patience, and trade-offs.  Each day is a lesson.  Some of you know I have officially moved into our semi-completed casita in Teotitlan del Valle.  I’m in Week Four.  Week One was like camping when I managed to get a bed frame built, a bed delivered and after a few days, water hooked up for a functioning bathroom and kitchen sink.  At the start of Week Three, when I knew no workers would come, I left for San Cristobal de Las Casas.  And, on the day I returned, the plumber and carpenter were ready to keep the work flowing!  Today there is warm water, kitchen shelves and cooking gas.

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Yesterday, I wanted to make garbanzo soup.  I had a rich broth of chicken stock in the pot along with pieces of chicken that I have been adding water to,  boiling and eating for several days.  It’s amazing how far half-a-chicken can go.  Add a few shreds along with quesillo to pan integral (whole wheat rolls) and there’s a breakfast, lunch or dinner.

With slotted spoon in hand, I removed the chicken to a bowl, added the toasted and ground garbanzo powder to the broth, lit the gas stove, and put the lid on the pot.  Perhaps I walked away for a few minutes and when I returned, those pesky ants had covered my chicken.  In North Carolina, where life is unconsciously plentiful, I might have said, eeewww, rinsed the chicken with tap water, and then given it to the dog or cat.

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Here, it’s different.  I did rinse with tap water, which I know I cannot ingest, then returned the chicken to another pot, added drinking water from the garafon (bottle of water), and brought it to a boil.  I then poured out that boiled broth hoping the dead ants would flow down the drain along with the liquid.

I added more drinking water to the pot, boiled again, and felt secure enough that lunch was in the offing.  Last year I took a cooking class with Pilar Cabrera at Casa de los Sabores.  We made salsa de hormiga.  They were a different kind of ants.

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I’m taking showers with a bucket to capture water.  I use a little trickle of water to wash my hands over the bucket in the kitchen sink, and I wash and rinse dishes over the bucket.  I use that gray water to give our thirsty young fruit trees a drink.  They are struggling.  Water is too precious to waste.  Just like the chicken.

Perhaps when Stephen gets here later this month (with my car, Hallelujah), we will figure out a water catchment system for the rainy season.  But, the downside of that is the possible attraction of mosquitos to standing water.  I have little time to focus on big issues as I concentrate on finding solutions to basic living, like how to get water delivered when I run out.

The water man is probably the most important person in town.  He brings a truck, runs a pipe to the tinaco (tank) on the roof, fills it up with 200 pesos of water (about $17 USD) and if I’m careful, don’t take long or daily showers, wash and rinse dishes quickly, and run the washing machine infrequently on short-cycle delicate, a tank might last for a week or more.  It’s always a surprise, too, when the water runs out.  My local cell phone is stoked with sufficient minutes so that in water emergencies I can call and Sr. Hernandez will deliver the same day, even on Sunday which is what happened last week.

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Last night at dusk, I took a walk in the campo.  It was glowing.  I took the photos I’m showing on this post during the walk.  Along the way, I met a young woman who introduced herself as Magdalena.  As she spoke, she moved from Spanish into English and told me she had lived in Greensboro, NC, for seven years.  I am reminded how small and interconnected our world is even in this little village of 8,000 people.

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Now, the wind is blowing.  The field behind our casita is freshly plowed and ready for the milpas June planting of maize, squash and beans.  The air is clear and warm.  In the near distance are mountains and mounds.  The mounds are likely unexcavated Zapotec archeological sites.  Next week, our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat starts. Life is good.

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