It is a pity that the word ‘gallina’ -hen- is used in Spanish to describe a person lacking courage, just as the word ‘chicken’ is used in English for the same purpose. Hens and eggs are of great significance to me. First of all, they symbolize the feminine forces and the beginning of life. They make me think how we women are subject to those physical and emotional ups and downs surrounding the releasing of a monthly tiny egg that determines our existence to such a great degree.
Second, they bring memories of Mamá Ana, my paternal grandmother, and my visits to the market square with her. Mamá Ana would haggle forever with the vendors to pick up the cheapest dozen of ‘huevos campesinos’ –country eggs. That’s how ‘organic eggs’ were called then. Meanwhile, I would just drag my feet behind her skirt, without a hat, without an umbrella, without a distraction against the tropical heat.
Mamá Ana never knew that antibiotics and pesticides ingested by large-production hens could be harmful to her health, nor was she aware that those hens spent all their lives crowded in a huge cage. Had she known about that, she would have shrugged her shoulders. What she knew quite clearly, not from reading on Sunday magazines but from the wisdom of her country gut, was that the robust flavor of those coveted eggs came from hens that wandered in the scrubs of the Colombian hills, filling their bellies with succulent seeds and scrumptious earthworms.
From that combination of eggs, hens and grandmother came my book Saturday Sancocho. From there also comes my desire to collect hens, which should be not bigger than an avocado and, if possible, should involve an egg.
Yesterday, I received a hen-mobile in the mail. It was a surprise gift from my friend Jeannie of New York. It arrived on time to alleviate my end-of-the-cycle existential storms and my impulses to flee everything –just like the proverbial chicken. Today I’m ready again to keep on warming my creative eggs and see what might hatch from them.