Friday, February 10, 2012

Fowl Ball

Deciding we needed to escape the cold Canadian winter, we flew down to Cuba with another couple for one full week of fun in the sun.  We were younger then, with fairly limited vacation budgets, and while this all-inclusive resort may not have exactly been featured on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, it was more than adequate, and being of the right mindset, we certainly made the most of our time there.

After our first day was spent lounging around the pool, enjoying the sounds of the Caribbean, replenishing fluids as we baked in the sun, and playing water-basketball with other vacationers not unlike ourselves, the two couples headed to their respective rooms to get washed up for dinner.  Meeting at the pre-arranged time, we then walked along the beach, listening to the waves make their way to shore.  With the palm trees gently swaying around us, drinks in hand, we watched the orange glowing sun slowly drop below the horizon.  We continued on to the restaurant.

The buffet was plentiful, and offered a grand assortment of tasty options.  With plates in hand, we worked our way along the line, carefully selecting the items we felt looked most delicious to our individual appetites.  The girls chose varying degrees of salads and fish.  I chose slightly meatier and starchy options, with perhaps a few token vegetables placed here and there.  With three members of our party arriving back at the table at roughly the same time, we sipped our wine, politely waiting for the fourth to arrive.  For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him “Jason”.

Sauntering back to our table, balancing the contents on his plate ever so carefully, Jason returned from what appeared to be a successful hunting expedition.  With two hands, he lowered his plate onto the table, providing us with a better view of his bounty.  No vegetables.  No pastas.  No salads.  Chicken.  Just chicken.  And not just a little chicken.  Oh no, this was a heaping mound of chicken!  Colonel Sanders himself would have blushed at the sight.  Not wanting to judge however, and thinking that maybe he had just worked up a voracious hunger during the increasingly intense pool-basketball game that afternoon, we let him off the hook after just a few joking remarks.

The next day came and went in similar fashion to the first, spent by the pool, lounging in the sun, enjoying a never-ending array of rum based beverages, until once again we found ourselves at the dinner table, with three of four members sitting, waiting for the fourth to return from the buffet.  We joked, “He’s probably waiting for them to reload the chicken tray!” thinking surely tonight would not be a repeat performance.  And then he returned, and we were wrong.  With an even greater mound of chicken than before, I could only ponder that perhaps in his mind, thinking that the chickens ate vegetables, and he’s eating the chickens, his solitary selection constituted a complete and balanced diet.  We watched as he gobbled down the breasts, wings, and drumsticks, periodically lifting his head just long enough to proclaim with widely opened eyes “Ohhhh man!  I LOVE this chicken!!” before digging right back in.  Wiping the grease from his face and fingers, and apparently feeling euphoric from the effects of the mass quantities of chicken meat consumed, he even went back for more!

By day three, we were well established in our routine, which we basically continued throughout the duration of our stay.  Swim, sun, drinks, showers, dinner.  And with each passing day, we watched as Jason’s extreme love of bird meat provided the evening’s dinner entertainment, continually professing his love of the delectable Cuban fowl.  Not having gone unnoticed, the restaurant employees would shout into the kitchen “pollo, pollo” upon seeing Jason walk through the door.  Thinking it was a customary Cuban greeting, and not wanting to offend, Jason happily replied back “pollo, pollo” with a quick wave and a smile, before carrying on to our table.  And with that, the restaurant staff would scurry off, scrambling to find more chicken.

As our vacation came to a close, and having put a potentially irreversible dent in the Cuban chicken supply, we enjoyed our final meal.  Uncharacteristically, Jason returned with one single piece of chicken on his plate, this time accompanied by a greater variety of side dishes.  The puzzled eyes of the restaurant staff followed him, disappointment clearly shown in their slumping shoulders, as they had taken great pride in replenishing the chicken tray, and strategically stacking the tender delights with artistic flare in anticipation of his visit.  When I asked what was wrong, he replied, “Ah, I was getting kind of tired of chicken, and thought maybe I should try something else”. 

Having quickly finished his plate however, Jason returned to the buffet for more, and this time, did not disappoint.  His appetite for “something else” having now been satisfied, he went back to what he knew was tried and true.  One last full plate of chicken for the road would be had, and the restaurant staff beamed and laughed with excitement.  “I LOVE this chicken!!” he would openly declare once more.  As we got up to leave the restaurant for the final time, the restaurant staff bid Jason farewell, and with their smiling faces yelled “Pollo, pollo!”  Jason smiled back, touched by the friendliness of the Cuban hospitality.  With a wink and a wave, he responded “Pollo, pollo!” then walked out the door, and out of their lives forever, leaving only his legend, and a Country left to rebuild its now struggling chicken population. 

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