Expatriate Epigenetics; Chicken or the Egg

The Fox in Charge of the Henhouse

Moving to Curacao in the early 1980s, I thought it was a desert island. After all, it looked like a desert island with its rocky, lack of any topsoil and cacti growing everywhere.

N.B. to those enamored with fences and/or walls.

Look no further than to cacti fences. Very effective deterrence against invaders, whether they be four-legged goats running wild or two-legged invaders exercising their freedom to burgle.

 

Island living wasn't exactly what was portrayed in glossy magazines. It meant going to small Mom & Pop stores over and over, and over again. Since virtually everything came by either boat or airplane, foodstuffs and other items varied daily. Or not. As my darling, visiting mother-in-law Beatrice learned.

On her very first day on the island, she saw something that she wanted to take home.

"Buy it," I said.

"Oh no, I'll wait."

"It won't be there," I forecast.

"Oh, really? But it's so common--I'm sure it will be there."

Three months later it wasn't so she went home empty-handed and better educated for the next winter she'd spend with us.

With an average temperature of about 80°F, Curacao is located a short flight from Venezuela but a long way from the hurricane track. An easy climate for those who love dry heat. Or if you're a chicken.

Which brings me to Reynard the chicken farmer.

Although there were some free-range chickens raised privately by residents outside the capital city of Willemstad, the rest of us ate what was available. Mostly frozen chicken, that was mostly smuggled in.

As for the popular local comestible iguana and/or goat, they were locally sourced.

When Reynard immigrated to Curacao from one of the Portuguese islands off Africa, he followed his antecedents to become a gardener/landscaper. But not for long. Seeing an unmet need, Reynard began a very small chicken farm that gave him a virtual monopoly on fresh chicken.

Sometimes, very very fresh.

Reynard's small, open-air chicken shop was a wooden shack with some free-range parking about it. When I walked in, I'd get in line as inconspicuously as possible which wasn't easy in a sea of locals. Estimates were some 95% (or more) of the population were descendants of Black Africans.

And I wasn't unknown to Reynard given he bought his poultry feed from the company my husband managed. So each and every time I went to buy fresh chicken, to my never ending embarrassment Reynard would whisk me to the front of the line. Out of the cooler would pop chicken, often warm to the touch. Given chickens were slaughtered daily, that was unsurprising.

Though it was a very, small operation in those days, Reynard delivered his premium product to the groceries. And since many of those small groceries were run by former Portuguese immigrants like Reynard, the canny  businessman did very well indeed.

Fishy Chicken

But why did the eggs and chicken taste of way-too-old fish in Lima, Peru in 1972-73? That's all I wanted to know. Then once I knew why, I wanted to know...what I could do about it?

Fishmeal was why the chicken tasted so, bad fishy. What the animal ate affected what it tasted like and since the chickens of Lima ate a diet heavily laced with fishmeal, the poor pollo tasted like the not so awful fishmeal.

What to do about it? Well, that was elementary Sherlock. Move.

Expatriate Epigenetics

The life experiences that I've written about in this blog over the past year have definitely changed who I was brought up to be, changing how I view the world and thus, who I am today. Maybe it is just due to expatriate epigenetics.

As Dr. Ian Cowell of the Institute for Cell and Molecular biosciences at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK writes on the website of the British Society for Cell Biology, "...epigenetics is the term used to describe inheritance by mechanisms other than through the DNA sequence of genes."

Once again Shakespeare nailed it, for if the problem lies within us so too may be the answer to the problem.

 

 

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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