One of the best things about travelling is the food. It’s the thing people most often ask about when you get home.
How was the food? Did you go to local places? What was the weirdest thing you ate?
When we decided to book a trip to Cuba last year, it was the first thing people pounced on. The. Food. Is. Awful. They went on and on about it. It’s tasteless. It’s boring. The country is beautiful, unless you’re a foodie. We had a different experience, but this isn’t that story. I’ll talk about Havana another time. My point is, acclimating and fully experiencing a place will always involve food.
There were nine of us on this particular trip. After two days lounging around our A-frame AirBnB, and more than a few hours at the local bar, we were heading to the marina to pick up our sailboat and discover the islands of French Polynesia.
It was a busy day. We had to get our gear aboard, go through the safety briefing and provision. We pre-plan. We come up with ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. All the things we think we’re going to want to eat. But the grocery stores we visit are never like the ones at home. So, we improvise.
Maybe you can’t get taco seasoning, or hummus, that sort of thing. You work around it. You buy the most useful spices. You look up how to make something from scratch using a few cans of chickpeas. No problem.
For all things it didn’t have, Raiatea made up for it with baguettes. Like, a lot of them. If you stood on the street, you’d see bikes going by, huge baguettes hanging out of the baskets. It was Paris, with palm trees. They also had chicken. Parts.
We’re used to seeing chicken in pieces. A package of breasts, thighs, wings, all cool. But here, the label just said ‘parts’. We joked about it. Figured we’d buy a few packages and see what we ended up with. Worst case, we’d make a stir-fry.
Every few days, we’d stop again, on another island. There were things to do. Dispose of our garbage. Buy more beer. And hit the grocery store to top off our supplies. In every single one of them we’d try again. But there they’d be. Chicken parts.
It took a little creativity to make the best use of what came out of each package. Could be three wings, a thigh and then bits and pieces. Was it one bird, two? It was impossible to tell. And honestly, who cares. No one got sick. But it became a running joke. Why was it always random parts?
After twelve days on the ocean, we arrived back where we started. One last beer at our favourite spot and then off to the airport. The island’s biggest van came to pick us up. We jammed in. Nine people, plus luggage. We were tired, and quiet. Everyone lost in their own thoughts.
As we neared an intersection, speeding just a little, a rooster tottered out onto a nearby lawn. He picked his moment, opened his wings, and took flight. Unfortunately, his timing was off. Way off. As his path crossed ours there was a huge thud. It was like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Eyes wide, beak to the side, face first into the windshield, and then gone.
There was total silence. A collective holding of breath. Was that just… Did we actually… And then, one voice. Loud and clear. Chicken parts!
Everyone laughed. Even the driver. Maybe she was relieved. Maybe she thought we were horrible people. Maybe both are true. Whatever. It sticks with me even today. I’ll be standing over those cellophane packages, trying to decide what to choose, and smile. What I really want is chicken parts.