Monday, January 11, 2010

Bicycle Chicken

A Burkinab√® friend who works as a server in a restaurant in downtown Ouaga came to see me a few days ago. After a very busy holiday season, he is now taking two weeks off. Christmas and New Year’s is one of the most profitable times of the year for restaurants here, so my friend not only had to work his regular hours, but also put in a lot of overtime.

However, he told me that he’s thinking of quitting this job and looking for another one. He doesn’t know what kind of job yet, but is researching his options, mostly by talking to his customers. I suspect that’s why he came to see me too :)

I asked him why he was thinking of quitting. “Because being a server is a dead-end job,” he replied. “If I were a cook, it would be different. I could learn more and improve myself and move up in the restaurant world. But not as a server. I’m still young right now and can learn new skills, but someday I’ll be too old to do that, so I have to do it now while I still have some time left.” I thought that was pretty astute thinking! I promised I’d keep an eye out for any job possibilities for him.

I mentioned that Kathy & I had tried a new restaurant lately, Le Papillon, where I’d had a curried chicken dish, but was disappointed that they’d used a tough, local, free-range chicken instead of a higher quality grain-fed one like the better restaurants do. “Oh,” said my friend, “you mean they served poulet bicyclette (bicycle chicken)!”

“Poulet bicyclette?” I queried. “What’s that?”

“That’s what we call the local chickens,” he answered. “The meat is tough and wiry, as if they’ve been out riding a bicycle all day. We actually like them better than the grain-fed ones. The meat of the latter is much too soft for our liking. We grew up with chickens that you can really chew on and that’s what we still like best.”

“That’s great,” I said. “You can have them! I can think of better things to do with a couple of hours of my time than to spend them chewing on some old chicken leg!”

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