Tony on family, food, and hunting while Black
This story was a collaboration between Tony and NBEC's Stories for Change working group.
In mid-February 2022, Amara Ifeji from NBEC’s Stories for Change working group met with Tony to talk about outdoor experiences. They explored various questions about food, family, racism, and more. The following is a condensed version of their conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.
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"Have you had any pivotal experiences outdoors?"
Tony: I'm immediately thinking about something that just happened recently. And it sort of happened both outdoors and indoors. So, I went to an animal farmer by Sabattus Pond somewhere—and he sells chickens. He sells female chickens for $5 and male chickens for $10. So I decided, that's now where I'm going to get chicken from. Part of the reason I decided that was because it was so cheap. But also I think it adds more value to the whole experience of eating an animal, when you have killed it yourself. You know what it took to get it literally from the farm to your table. I had the most difficult experience trying to get all the feathers off using boiling water then trying to compare that to just doing it by bare hand.
And part of the reason this is so important to me is because I grew up with stories of this. My father, before coming to this country, had to do just that. He has stories of him doing this with his grandmother. She would say "choose a chicken"—that was the chicken they chose, he would have to kill the chicken, he would have to help her prepare the chicken, and that was what they had for dinner.
So I grew up with stories of this, of just being a Trinidadian country boy and living off the land, raising that chicken, seeing it go from a chick to a full chicken, killing it, eating it, using that to feed yourself, your mom, dad, grandma— everybody in the family.
And I didn't have the same experience, where I'm sharing that with family—it was just me and my partner—but it meant something to get hands-on experience. I was talking to my father about how difficult this was. Like, man, how’d you get all these feathers off? I couldn't get all the pin feathers, like, I definitely ate some feathers, I just couldn't get all of them out. [laughs]. And he talked about how they have certain machines for 'em, and I was just like pouring boiling water over it, but I didn't want to pour too much of it at one time because I heard the skin could peel off. So my father said, "this is what you do. You get some warm water." He told me to dip it in, but he said "don't dip it in for too long, because then the skin will fall off" and I'm like "I learnt that," but this is just so natural for him, as I'm telling him about what I was trying to do. But it just meant something.
The skills and experiences that have been lost to me—that I've lost because he moved to a different country, or because he didn't have the same access to the same activities to be able to pass on to us in the same way—now I've gone out of my way to do something that my great-grandmother did. So I'm doing something that connected my father to his grandmother—a woman I've never met, a woman I'll never know—but because of her energy and spirit, that was passed on to him, it somehow reached me. It's really cool.
This story was created and published in February-April 2022