Adventures in Peace (Corps)

Slaughtering in the Hamam

Tonight I witnessed the slaughtering of a chicken. It was a surprise. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that there was a chicken in the house until I asked if I could use the extension cord to plug my computer in when Habib took me onto the enclosed balcony to look for the cord and said in AZ, “Oh look, there’s a chicken!” Sure enough there was a chicken. Habib gestured that they were going to slaughter the chicken. The gesture was the universal sign of sliding his forefinger across his jugular vein. Apparently they bought the chicken to slaughter for baby Fidan to eat. A live chicken costs around 7-8 manat, and an already slaughtered and prepared chicken costs about 3 manat, but everyone knows that a freshly slaughtered chicken is much better than one that’s been sitting on ice for days. I asked Ilkane who would slaughter the chicken and she explained that one of the men would do it because women don’t slaughter animals. Also, a man cannot slaughter the animal if he drinks. These are the laws of Halal.

Not more than 20 minutes after we discovered the chicken, Habib came knocking at my bedroom door to let me know that Hasan would be doing the deed. I immediately went to get my camera so that I could document the entire thing. Hasan put on his papaq (the Muslim yarmulkah), grabbed a knife, quickly sharpened the edge, grabbed the squawking chicken by its feet, had an argument with Minaya about where he would slaughter the animal (she wanted him to do it on the floor of the kitchen, but they just remodeled and that seemed unacceptable to him), and went to the hamam (washroom, where we all bathe), said a quick prayer to Allah, and removed the head of the chicken.  He then sat there for a few minutes while the blood drained unto to floor. I watched the entire thing. I’ve never seen an animal being slaughtered before. I have to admit that I was slightly underwhelmed. I know that must sound terribly insensitive, but really the animal at the time of slaughter was so completely still and calm that its death was fairly uneventful. It wasn’t until the chicken was brought into the kitchen and Minaya starting pulling it apart from the inside out, feather by feather that I was glad that I was not the chicken.

Hasan Before the Sacrifice

Minaya, Hasan & the chicken

Slaughtering in the Hamam


Boiling the chicken makes it easier to remove the feathers.

Defeathering the chicken

Head of Chicken


20 responses

  1. Shizzy

    Good times, Glendeenie! I love you!

    November 2, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    • Hey Mz. Shizzy,

      Thanks for sending those photos out the other day. Great to see you and all the girls. Give everyone a big hug and kiss for me. Love you!

      November 4, 2010 at 7:16 am

  2. Stacey

    no hormones in that baby. Foster Farms chickens would be jelous. It sounds like what my bubby did in boyle heights when she went to the butcher and picked out the chicken. The butcher did his thing and bubby took it home and cleaned it. She used the feathers to make pillows and quilts. I have one of those quilts; weighs a ton. Hope it tastes delish.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    • Wow!!! I’ve never seen that quilt. I’m surprised they don’t save the feathers, but I don’t thing they do that very often. It’s the first time since I’ve been here. Probably would take to long to save enough feathers to make anything at that rate.

      November 4, 2010 at 7:15 am

  3. Lori

    That’s kosher enough for me! Do you know what the prayer was prior to the decapitation? How did they then prepare the chicken?

    Good photos! Will you please also post photos of the bathroom and kitchen and rest of the apartment? I want to see your living space in more detail. How much longer will you live there?

    How’s your language skill coming along?


    November 3, 2010 at 8:13 am

    • It was Allah Hu Akbar, and then he slit the chickens’ throat. The chicken was for the baby, so they just boiled it. Nothing special.

      I’ve been meaning to make a video of where I live and post it. I’ll see if I can do that this weekend. I’ll mos def do it before I leave. I wish I had taken photos of the kitchen before they remodeled, but too late now.

      November 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

  4. angella nazarian

    that man looks very serious with that knife!

    November 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

  5. Sharlene Basch

    My mother never bought a chicken from a butcher in her life. She would go to the live poultry market, pick out a chicken, the Schochet (men who do the slaughter according to Halacha), would slaughter the chicken, he then would flick the feathers, hold the chicken by the feet and neck and put it over a Bunson burner to burn off the rest of the feathers. Bubby would take the chicken home, open it up to clean out the guts, soak and salt it to make it kosher and than cook it. Bubby never let the people at the market open and clean the chicken. If she found a bruise or blemish she would run it down to the Rabbi to make sure it was OK to use.

    That’s my memory of how we did it in the Neanderthal days. I havn’t seen a live poultry market in many, many years.

    Love, Mom

    November 3, 2010 at 8:54 am

  6. I don’t blame the man for not wanting to spoil the new floor in the kitchen. The flooring in my kitchen is getting old so I don’t have a problem letting a chicken bleed all over it before I BBQ the birds killed here. Actually, come to think of it, the flooring in the bathroom is newer – so not a good place for slaughtering anything.

    Never a dull moment in that house. Keep sending us your notes – they’re all really great!

    November 3, 2010 at 8:56 am

    • I can’t wait to come home and slaughter a chicken in your kitchen with you.

      November 4, 2010 at 7:11 am

  7. Josh

    Great little moment and great responses above.
    How much is a mamat in dollars? Is it significant to spend 7 mamat on a live chicken vs. 3 for a butchered and iced chicken?
    It does bring to light how disconnected we are from the food chain in this country.

    November 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

    • There is $.80 to one manat, so by American standards it is not a huge difference, but you have to consider that these people live on a lot less than we do in the States, so for them 4 manat does make a difference.

      After the slaughter we had a discussion about how we get our meat in the States. They were shocked when I told them that most factories shoot their animals on an assembly line. It is so different in this country. It’s like how my mom descibed it. People go to the local butcher store and he has sides of meat hanging on the rack that he slaughtered himself. Cows that are about to be slaughtered are tied to posts in front of the butcher shop. It’s not all lovely and humane though. These cows are so tightly bound to these posts, they have no room to move about, and they are sometimes left like that for a few days. It’s not idyllically pastoral by any means, not in Sumgayit anyways.

      November 4, 2010 at 7:10 am

  8. Sharlene Basch

    Why would they slaughter the chicken in the house and let the blood drip on the kitchen (new or not), or bathroom floor? If they did it in the kitchen, don’t they have a sink where the blood could drain?

    Could they have done this outside?

    P.S. To my previous comment, the reason I know about this procedure is I would sometime go with Bubby to the market and watch what was being done.
    Not only for Bubby but all the customers. Watching this never bothered me. I’ve seen it many times.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

    • Yeah, I was surprisingly unphased by it. They live in an apartment block, so maybe they could have done it outside, but I’m not sure where. They don’t really have a yard, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone slaughtering an animal on the street. In fact, on my way home from school tonight I did see a cow being slaughtered behind a large truck in a driveway…so there you have it. Sometime this month they is a holiday where they sacrifice a large animal, like a cow or lamb, cut it up and distribute the meat to the poor. I can’t wait for that holiday.

      November 4, 2010 at 6:59 am

  9. tara yasmine mchenry

    Chicken slaughtering in the bathroom, eh? whoa. Makes me want to in shins-n-hooves! Keep this culinary tale a-rollin’ sister! I can’t wait for what’s next!

    November 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm

  10. P o E

    glad i’m a vegetarian! carrots don’t bleed on your kitchen floor! LOL!

    November 3, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  11. Sharlene Basch

    A tutorial on how it’s done in L.A. The cattle are brought in 40-50 at a time from feed lots out in the country, by livestock haulers. I’m sure you’ve seen these trucks on the frwy. The truck driver and someone working in the yard off loads them into corrals for slaughter that day or the next. When it’s time for the kill they put one animal at a time in a very tight corral so they can’t move around. A man (these days it could be a women, women’s lib, equal rights, you know), stands higher then the animal and uses a stun gun (pneumatic gun with a retractable charge) puts it to the forehead of the animal. The animal falls to the ground and they put a shackle on its leg and haul it up to the kill floor usually on the 2nd or 3rd level of the bldg. They remove the hide and all the guts. The animals are inspected by a veterinarian Dr. for any diseases (if it’s a federally inspected company), they are employees of the US Dept. of Agri. The animals are split in half head to tush, I think (not sure), they’re covered with a shroud taken to the cooler (frige), after they’re cooled down the shroud is removed and all the meat buyers from the market chains and individual stores pick out the meat they want us to deliver to their warehouses or individual stores.

    Now you can tell your host family how it was done in L.A. There are not many companies left in Vernon that do this anymore.

    For you, this is probably more then you needed or wanted to know.


    November 4, 2010 at 8:41 am

  12. Jamie Port

    EEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Denie this is so gross!!!

    November 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

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