Monday, 30 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (9): Chicken is not meat

Today I was talking to my students about food. I asked them what their favourite food is, and why. One student said: "I love to eat chicken, because I don't like meat."

Wait, what?

"Chicken is meat", I said, "so that statement makes no sense."

"No", the student replied, "chickens are birds, so they are not meat."

"Meat is the flesh of any dead animal that is used as food, whether it is a cow or a chicken", I explained. This was news to everybody in class but me.

I had to get out the dictionary again, because they weren't having any of it, and yes, lo and behold, in the Oxford English Dictionary ('the world's most trusted dictionaries') it states:

Meat - noun [mass noun] - the flesh of an animal or bird as food

Unfortunately, this 'chicken is not meat'-logic is very common in Egypt. I am a vegetarian, and the amount of times I have had to explain in Egyptian restaurants that 'no, I don't eat meat, so I would not like to eat chicken', runs well into the double digits.

I hear it every time I fly Egyptair too. When they come bring the food, the choice is: 'would you like chicken or meat?'. It always confuses the hell out of non-Egyptians.

I am pretty keen to root out this abhorrent misunderstanding, so once again I'll be the classroom warrior and educate my students on the definition of meat. You change the world one person at a time.

PS Another light in which this students' comment is interesting, is that every time someone eats some exotic animal, like a kangaroo, a snake, or a crocodile, and you asked them what it tastes like, they will always, without fail, say 'chicken'.

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