Poulet Télévisée

In 1983, I “followed to join” my husband in Burkina Faso, then known as Haute or Upper Volta.  It was my first time in Africa and everything was so exciting; babies on the back, trays balanced on heads, village chiefs in full regalia, open markets and street food.  In those days, to be young, American and in Africa was a true adventure.  My husband had been a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the 70s, so things weren’t so new to him but I was fascinated by everything!  It’s too bad that I hadn’t met Roger http://www.rogerstowell.com/ before this, who gave me the gift and love of food photography.  I would have had some awesome photos.  Oh well, better late than never.

Ouagadougou, Upper Volta’s capitol, resembled an isolated U.S. town that you saw in old western movies, one dusty, unpaved main street with everything lined up on each side; hotels (don’t think fabulous), restaurants, little grocery and hardware stores, etc.  I loved it!  Some clever, Voltaique entrepreneur had the idea to bring commercial chicken rotisseries to Ouagadougou and these technical innovations were also lined up on the main street, attended by gangs of little boys and adults who watched for hours, fascinated by the browning and tenderizing of local chickens.  Thus the name, “television chicken”, christened by the disadvantaged population who could not afford a television and took there amusement where they could find it.  And there I stood, watching them, watching the chicken.  Talk about easily amused 😀

In addition to the chicken, the owners would line the bottoms of the rotisseries with several pounds of slice onions that caramelized as the chickens were cooking.  When you received your chicken, wrapped in a piece of cement bag, you also got a heaping serving of the onions.  So good and I guess different, because here in France, you get a recycled jelly jar of chicken fat from the bottom of the rotisserie.

So why am I talking about this?  Well, yesterday it was 103 degrees.  I hate that!  Any restaurant worth attending was closed for the month of August and I couldn’t face making anything, be it salad or sandwich.  Jade remembered the traiteur next to the market who sells fresh, roasted chickens from a rotisserie.  Bravo Jade!  We went over and bought one and on the way back home, stopped at the Parrets to get some tomatoes.  They have a beautiful garden with tons of tomatoes, lettuce and beans.  One thing led to another and we all decided to eat together in the summer kitchen, sharing the chicken and some garden produce from their yard and that of their son’s, Olivier.  Good decision.

Now if this had been an impromptu American Sunday lunch, we would have just thrown together a salad, sliced the chicken and chowed down.   Not at all Chez Parret!  You would have thought, after many years of exposure to me, the Parrets’ American, they would have loosened up a bit.  After all, think of the temperature 103F and 39C!

Anyway, we began with a good sliced salami with a Rose Cremant for appertif.  Followed by a garden fresh salad of tomatoes and onions.

Olivier had some gorgeous diced zucchini from his garden and I quick sauteed them with garlic, salt and pepper and added a sprinkle of parsley.

M. Parret sliced the warm chicken in, I thought, a whimsical, French manner.  It was still good.  We had a red with this but after the first bottle of wine, I start to lose focus, so I don’t know what it was but it was good  🙂

Of course, there was cheese and he had a particularly good Comte.  We all had seconds, continuing with the red.

In deference to the hot weather, finally, desert was a sweet and juicy melon.

There was coffee, to which M. Parret insisted on adding a shot of French white lightening in each cup.  And that’s why I’m submitting this post today, Monday, instead of yesterday.

The wonderful thing about real people is, unlike food, they don’t just sit there; they laugh, joke and converse.  When I go to the Parrets for lunch, I need a designated photographer to capture these excellent moments.  By the way, I like his shirt.  My husband needs one 🙂

About cookinginsens

An American living in Burgundy, France
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29 Responses to Poulet Télévisée

  1. Wonderful description of a French lunch, exactly how it should be. The Parrets have become legend through you and I thought his chicken carving was typique. My smart ass carving has been replaced by the same system of reducing the cooked bird to ediible, but unrecognisable chunks, dripping in butter or its own juices. M. Parret does look to be a dude. Fabulous post, and Ougadougou is forever in my mind.

  2. Everything looks delicious!

  3. Laura says:

    Your post brought back both happy memories from my own Ouaga days as well as somewhat fuzzy – but still happy! — memories of long Sunday lunches at home and at a vast range of food-serving venues (only some of which might be termed restaurants) in Bamako, Addis, Kigali, and Dakar with the Mullally family. A nice post to start the week! 🙂

  4. Mad Dog says:

    I think that’s the way lunch is supposed to be – most of the world has got it wrong 😉

  5. Tessa says:

    What a fabulous lunch! Television chicken… Hilarious!

    • In general, the people of West Africa have amazing senses of humor which makes what we would consider a hard life, into what they consider just plain old life.

  6. What a wonderful story about the “television chicken.” My friend Carol Denney has written a song called “Roll, Chickens, Roll” about an urban girl who watches chickens turning on a spit for entertainment, just like your villagers. It starts “Roll, chickens, roll/Fry, chickens, fry/I hang around the deli and it helps the time go by…”

  7. Karista says:

    What a lovely meal and what a wonderful story about the Television Chicken. I love your stories of food, friends, family and adventure. What a great book it would make. 🙂

  8. Conor Bofin says:

    The Television Chicken grabbed me. The lunch story engaged me. The cheese just made me jealous.

  9. What a wonderful post ! I loved reading about television chicken in Ouaga and your wonderful impromptu lunch chez Parret! Bravo!

  10. Television chicken. You really do learn something new everyday. Or every time I come here anyway.

  11. ulycastillo says:

    Chicken,gracious host,appreciative guests- Well makes good company. I love reading the post -nice story and the detail are real like. it reminds me of beautiful dinners I had had in Bacolod,Phiippines with friends Merly and Lj. And which i had i many occasions have the oppurtunity to relish in my wife’ beautiful resort SundayFlower ,Santa Fe,Philippines.

  12. rsmacaalay says:

    Nothing beats a simple rotisserie chicken!

  13. “television chicken” 🙂 I love it. I’m sure I would have stood there too! Great post.

  14. I am catching up on posts with everyone, and love this one about the television chicken! I have heard of putting onions and potatoes under rotisserie chicken to catch the juices…and thought I remembered that as a French custom, but perhaps not. Dining chez Parret always looks like so much fun.

  15. Don’t you get potatoes with your rotisserie chicken in Sens? Here in Saint-Aignan and around the region, they always cook potatoes (flavored with onion, carrot, celery etc.) under the rotisserie at the markets and you can buy a container of them to have with the chicken. Delicious.

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