Mexican Chicken Coffee

Photo by Ante Samarzija on Unsplash

This is a story about family. It’s a story about entitlement and crossed boundaries. It’s a story about… well, Mexican Chicken Coffee.

I grew up in a large family — one brother, three sisters, a menagerie of animals, and two very dysfunctional parents. One can easily surmise that with such multitudes, there were many battles over personal boundaries.

My father, whose name was Rupert, had no notion of where he ended and others began. He strode through the world crisscrossing boundaries with impunity as though it were his own personal kingdom. He took what he wanted and did whatever he wanted; espousing his viewpoints liberally with no regard for the feelings or sensibilities of those in his path. He was like a human tornado at times, leaving a trail of dumbfounded expressions, open mouths, and emotional devastation in his wake.

Years ago I went to visit my dad and stepmom Bonnie in the lovely town of San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico. They owned a beautiful home he called Sueños de Invierno — or Winter Dreams — named so because they spent every winter there.

As with any place he ever lived, my dad filled every nook and cranny with colorful art. He was an avid collector and hunted obsessively for the next unique piece. I think what my father loved most was the art of the deal. He was voracious in his pursuit of the best and typically got what he wanted at a reduced price he predetermined. I developed empathy early on for the unsuspecting victims of his powers of persuasion and inability to take no for an answer.

I share this so you have a clear understanding of my father’s strong sense of entitlement.

When I visited my dad and Bonnie in Mexico I had the habit of waking up early and slipping downstairs to make some coffee. You need to know that I love everything about coffee; the aroma, taste, and steaming cup combine to create a perfect beginning to any day. It is a sacred ritual that I enact daily. There are nights when I go to bed in anticipation of the next morning’s brew. Wherever I go I look up new bistros in my search for the best cuppa ever. Basically, I’m a coffee snob. I cannot resist the allure of those magic beans at dawn. They comprise what I lovingly refer to as the Elixir of Resurrection.

Once my coffee was brewed I would then take it up to their rooftop patio to sit, sip and listen to the quaint Mexican town come to life led by a cacophony of chickens and roosters heralding the rising sun.

Photo by Ali Khalil

By the way, did you know that chickens can actually fly?! I had no idea until my first visit to Mexico. Most families keep their chickens in the courtyards of their homes since they generally had no backyards in the town proper. I watched from my dad’s rooftop as chickens flew up to roost in the small trees everyone had growing in their central courtyards. It was a hilarious sight watching these ungainly, fat, clucking balls of feathers struggle to attain the lowest branches. They’d jockey for position, pecking, squawking, and flapping in an effort to claim the choicest spot.

Anyway, on this particular morning, I wandered into the kitchen to begin my ritual. The fridge was on my right, the coffee pot on the counter next to it, and a big kitchen window over the sink framed by shelves full of bright, Mexican pottery and Oaxacan carvings.

I got all the necessary items to brew a pot and opened the top of the coffee maker. Inside was a mystifying sight. There were used coffee grounds, which I expected. On top of the grounds was a small pile of chicken bones.

Huh.

Now I consider myself fairly well-versed in unusual cooking practices having grown up with a mother who had a passion for cooking atypical dishes. We ate everything from turtle soup and cow’s tongue to Swedish blintzes and Kranse Kringle. We not only ate Christmas goose but we were also required to pluck it.

There aren’t many sights in a kitchen that could surprise me but seeing those chicken bones sitting atop the coffee grounds truly gave me pause.

I struggled to make culinary sense of the odd combination of coffee beans and bones.

I failed.

I simply couldn’t figure out how chicken bones could improve upon a beverage that was already perfect. I settled the conundrum by mentally labeling it “Mexican Chicken Coffee” and saved my questions for Bonnie.

So after this sleepy contemplation, I shrugged my shoulders in mild confusion, grabbed the filter full of grounds and bones, walked a couple of steps to the kitchen sink, and tossed them into the trash can underneath. I then proceeded to make my own, now potentially less-than-perfect cup of coffee.

After enjoying my simple bone-free brew while watching the neighboring chickens hustle for morning branch space I meandered back downstairs. My stepmom was puttering around in the kitchen and my dad was reading at the table.

Bonnie is a world-class cook so I was anticipating a great story and possibly interesting recipe in response to my bursting curiosity.

I turned to her and asked, “Bonnie, why were there chicken bones in the coffee pot? Is it some newfangled Mexican Chicken coffee recipe I’ve never heard of?”

The look on her face and what came out of her mouth was priceless. Her features contorted into a rictus of horror and embarrassment as she exclaimed, “God-DAMN IT RUPE!!!”

Being a peacemaker by nature, I tried to de-escalate in the face of her obvious distress by muttering, “Uh, no big deal. I was just curious.”

She shot a look of pure venom over at my dad who was sitting at the kitchen table with a tell-tale smirk on his face and turned to me in resignation to explain the origin of the “Mexican Chicken coffee.”

Evidently, my dad was in the habit of foraging in the fridge late at night for a snack. The previous night he had found some leftover chicken legs to nosh on. Rather than get a plate, he stood there, in the ghostly glow of the refrigerator light, munching away. As he consumed the chicken he looked around for a place to put the bones. Being entitled and far too lazy to walk three feet to the trash can under the sink, he saw the coffee maker right there next to the fridge. He popped open the lid and deposited the bones on top of the coffee grounds — thus originating the mystery of the Mexican Chicken coffee.

I lost it laughing because when my dad crossed a line, you either laughed, cried, or got pissed off. It was nothing to cry over and being the daughter of Rupe Getzen, I had learned that getting angry is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die… so I chose to laugh.

He marched through this world doing as he pleased, leaving a path of horrified looks, embarrassed apologies, and vocal curses in his wake. It never fazed him and he received such vitriol with gallows humor and that mischievous smirk on his face. He never learned to respect that, “No!” was a complete sentence. My stepmom, being a woman of great heart and forbearance, tolerated this behavior deficit because he had so many other redeeming qualities.

There is no particular moral to this story because my father has long since passed away but if he were still here I’d have to say, “Expect the unexpected when in the presence of my dad and definitely leave room for the possibility of something strange like Mexican Chicken Coffee.”

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Grace Getzen - Connection Creatrix

Writing is an intimate expression of who we are and what we care about.