Chicken is the most common poultry kept for meat and eggs the world over. In most societies in Uganda, the gizzard of the local chicken is the most prized, and is usually served to guests as a sign of honour. It is also preserved for the male head of the family while it is taboo for a woman to eat i
Chicken is the most common poultry kept for meat and eggs the world over. In most societies in Uganda, the gizzard of the local chicken is the most prized, and is usually served to guests as a sign of honour. It is also preserved for the male head of the family while it is taboo for a woman to eat it.
Being the embodiment of a chicken, eating the gizzard in some societies is symbolic of having eaten a whole chicken.
The Madi story of Lia, the woman who embarrassed the clan by eating the â€œwhole chicken â€ while cooking the meat, shows the importance attached to the gizzard.
The absence of a gizzard in chicken stew has earned some women a thorough beating from their spouses and in some cases sent them packing back to their parentsâ€™ homes.
The Baganda refer to the gizzard as nkokonkulu, literally meaning â€˜main chickenâ€™
The importance attached to the gizzard explains why some families have taken to rearing local chicken for commercial purposes.
However, in some societies, the question of who eats the gizzard remains a contentious issue. Some families may not eat chicken if one entitled to eating the gizzard is away.
And for its delicious flavour, some prefer local chicken to the exotic breeds.
â€œIt has a warm and delicious soup as well as tough meat that feels like eating something as opposed to the very soft porridge-like meat of exotic broilers,â€ said Florence Aceng of Naguru.
Polycarp Mukasa, an accountant in Muyenga, says the local chicken is â€˜real chickenâ€™.
And for its value, visitors from the village to town bring with them native chicken as a sign of good relations.
In families where the gizzard takes a commanding and eminent place at the dinner table than the juicy or meaty parts of a chicken, the children have learnt to â€˜respectâ€™ the gizzard.
According to Mathias Kibuuka, the administrative secretary of Buganda Royal University, serving a gizzard to a guest shows that â€œthe guest has been honoured by the owner of the chicken.â€
For Mzee Luciano Okot of Kamdini Corner on the Kampala â€“ Gulu highway, the gizzard is valued because it is proof that a real chicken has been slaughtered. It is the only part of the chicken that is eaten from within the chicken.
â€œTo get a gizzard, one must cut open the chicken and thereafter clean it up. A gizzard shows that a chicken has indeed died and was killed in honour of the one who eats it,â€ said Okot, a retired teacher.
He says by looking at the gizzard, one can tell if the chicken was washed properly or not.
Formed of spongy hard cartilageous tissues, the gizzard is a muscular grinding organ of the digestive tract, below the crop of birds, and forming part of the stomach. The gizzard of birds is lined with a hardened layer of the protein keratin, preventing damage to the muscle layer during the grinding process. The gizzard acts as teeth in chicken. The gizzard is an egg-shaped organ. When cut open, one will see tiny stones.
One has to carefully remove the thin white layer on which the stones sit to make the gizzard ready for cooking and eating.
The gizzard has a spongy feel in the mouth. It bounces on the teeth as one is eating it â€“â€“ which some people find very exciting. It is also the only part of the chicken that offers such eating pleasure without the inconvenience of bones.
Gizzards are healthy too. According to Dr Irene at HealthandAge.com says they are low in fat because they are mostly lean muscle. Chicken gizzards contain protein and are a good source of iron, potassium, foliate, phosphorous and selenium.
The gizzard is the only part that stands as a whole entity, while other parts are cut.
In some communities, each member of the family has a special part of the chicken. The guest or the father eats the gizzard and the meaty back, daddy eats the breast, mummy eats one of the wings, the boys eat the drum sticks, the girls eat the other wing, the neck and sometimes the ribs.
The way forward
One thing is clear, the village cock is starting to crow in the city. Poultry farmers in Kampala have discovered that it is cumbersome to rear local chicken than the exotic ones. For the local chicken can look for their own food and are more resistant to common colds and diseases. They feed on locally available feeds that are commonly found everywhere in the compound yards, unlike the exotic ones which need close supervision and feed on only chicken feed, which is quite expensive.
Dr Salim Kizito, a veterinarian who rears local chicken commercially, agrees that the gizzard is an important part of any bird, though is importance is not scientific. â€œYes, if there is no visitor in my house and a chicken is slaughtered, the nkokonkulu is obviously mine. From time immemorial in our culture, that part belongs to the person of honour,â€ he says.
In some societies, women were not allowed to eat chicken. But this has now changed. And in some urban homes, women eat the gizzard.
Kibuuka says he always shares it with his wife at home.
Chicken for dinner who eats the gizzard?