Monday, July 26, 2010

Bronx Stories: An Unexpected Dinner

One weekend, I went to visit my grandmother. I walked with my sister to the train station on 167th Street and the Grand Concourse. We passed a cuchifrito (Spanish restaurant that sells fried specialties), two bodegas (Spanish grocery store) and the old Kent Theater, where you could see two movies for $5. I paid 75 cents for a token and went through the turnstile. My sister was small so I told her to go under the turnstile. Surprisingly, she did what I said and didn’t complain. We took the “D” train to 125th Street and transferred for the “C” train. We got off at 96th Street and Central Park West. We walked three blocks to Mamita’s house. It was early morning, so she still had rollers in her hair. They were the huge purple rollers that only your grandma would wear. The funny thing was that when she took off the rollers and combed her hair, it still looked frizzy just as if she never bothered with it.

Mamita had some errand to run so my sister and I were lucky we had our navy blue and white ProKed sneakers on. They kind of look like Converse sneakers but low tops instead of high tops. First we stopped at apartments near her home. These people gave her money. When I questioned her as to why people always gave her money, Mamita simply stated that she lends it to them. I asked her why? Mamita said that for every $100 she lends someone, they have to pay back $125, so she makes a profit of $25.  I asked her what would happen if someone didn’t pay her back and her response was that she would send someone of the male persuasion to collect it. It did not dawn on me that my grandmother was a loan shark.

Finally we stopped at a Live Fowl Market and she purchased a gallina, hen. She brought the chicken home and we played with it. It kept trying to fly but didn’t really get very high. My sister kept creeping from the doorway and yelling, “Boo!” whenever the poor hen came near. My grandmother yelled at us in Spanish. As I was not proficient in the vulgarities of the Spanish language, I had no idea what she said. What was clear, was her tone. We immediately stopped bothering the chicken.

Mamita told us to follow her to the kitchen, cocina. The kitchen consisted of the typical amenities: sink, stove/ oven, refrigerator, table and chairs. However, this kitchen was the size of a small bathroom. It’s dimensions were 7 feet wide by 4 feet long and 10 feet high. We crowded into the cocina as best we could. To my horror, Mamita grabbed the chicken, snapped it’s neck and plunged its body into a large pot of boiling water. With tongs, she then placed the dead hen into the sink and began plucking its feathers. My sister stood fascinated. I looked on in shock. She chopped off its head and let the blood drain from its body. I retched all over the tiny kitchen floor. Mamita told me to get the mop and clean up my mess.

One hour later, Mamita served dinner. It was homemade chicken soup. I was lucky enough to get the chickens leg with foot attached. Needless to say, I went hungry that night.


  1. What a story no wonder you went hunry that night I would have too.

    Take care.

  2. Thanks Yvonne. To this day I will not go to a galleria (the fowl market). :D

  3. I love that your grandma was a loan shark--cracks me up. I don't blame you on the chicken though--I couldn't have handled that as a kid either.