Gee, that chicken just up and died all on its own, Grandma…

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When he was young, my Grandfather, Nonno, lived on an island off the coast of Italy close the Naples. The island was called Ischia. The sole electricity they had there was a light bulb that would only come on in the living room at night. The whole family lived in one building and would fish and keep livestock and probably farm. They shared the food with the rest of village since there wasn’t any refrigeration. There is a story my Grandpa told about one time when, he was very young, probably around eight years old. His mother, my great grandmother, was feeling sick. He was worried about her and thought that some extra protein would help, so he wanted to get her some meat. The problem was meat was in very short supply at that time. They had the chickens which were solely for eggs, and they had pigs and rabbits, but I guess at this occasion it wasn’t yet the season to butcher them. His grandmother was the matriarch of the family and ran a tight ship. Nonno decided there was no way he was going to get her to let him butcher a chicken, so he set out to trick her. He went out and broke a chickens neck and then he ran up to his grandma, acting concerned, and told her one of the chickens had just keeled over and died. To my great great grandmother, this meant that the chicken had some sort of illness and needed to be disposed of pronto to make sure it didn’t spread its disease to the other chickens. So she told my Grandfather to quickly go get it and bury it. Nonno went and got it, but then he snuck it to his mom in the basement floor of the house which was their spot, to cook and eat. It’s not the most crafty ruse ever in a story, but keep in mind my grandfather was about eight at the time. At that age he was smart enough to know chickens that keel over need to be disposed of, and he was also capable of doing that deed for his mother. Pretty cool in my opinion.

–Michael DeScala

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