Eating Chicken in the Villages

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At every mid-day meal, the dogs come around, waiting at the periphery, licking themselves then sprawling in red dust, brown eyes with the same hungry shine.

All of us tear chicken from bones with our teeth, the succulence of chicken flesh coating our hands and lips. The people here clean each bone in a way I’ve never seen in the States, sucking the knots of tendon and gristle from the joints, all concentration and little speaking, food consuming attention. One by one children, women, and elders throw the small, immaculate bones over their shoulders.

The dogs crouch in, civil, not a fight or growl, their own society of young, old, and alpha accepting the flightless wing bones, the flung ribs and tibias, licking the full length of each one, tongues into the hollows, then the grind and crunch.

I look at my bones, still slivered with meat, knobby ends, oily, messy. “It’s okay to throw away when you are done,” one woman tells me. There is no garbage collection in Sierra Leone. Soon all the dogs are sitting in a row behind me, even they have discovered the wasteful American.

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