James and the pressure-cooked chicken: a vignette

James was like a brother to me, only he lived in a two-storey mansion big enough to get lost in, with distant, preoccupied parents and a brooding, venomous, older brother, where I lived in a cramped, prefabricated asbestos house with a family given to screaming matches, raucous laughter or both.

Whenever I went to James' house we would dine alone (his parents having eaten already, his brother nowhere to be seen), small portions neatly spaced on large plates, pristine cutlery clinking on crisp-white porceline.

At our place James and I would sit with the family, crowded around our chipped linoleum table in the kitchen, digging into the over-used pressure cooker for pale, gelatinous chicken that fell off the bone.

I still remember how James, a rake of a boy with a tousled mop of hair, would be completely absorbed in his meal, greedily gnawing at the palid chicken with greasy fingers, pausing occasionally to grin, food caught in his teeth.

For many years later I would cringe at the memory, conscious of our own relative poverty and the appalling modesty of the food. But more recently it has occurred to me that I never saw James eating elsewhere with such gusto and satisifaction.

Copyright © 2009 Dejan Djurdjevic