Neria - chapter 8
8 – Shopping and Hunting
We shared my bed again last night but I think Neria's getting a bit less scared about sleeping on her own. Perhaps she'll stay in my room but use her own bed tonight.
As soon was we had had breakfast Mum said she was going shopping and that we couldn't come because the shops only let one person from each car do the shopping.
Neria asked what shopping was and I said Mum was going out to get something to eat. Neria replied "You mean she's going hunting? Hunting doesn't work very well if you are on your on. Can't we all go?"
I tried to explain about shopping and how you give the shop money in exchange for what you want. Neria didn't know what money was and said “If someone visits us and has got something we want, like salt for preserving fish or red powder for painting with, we take it and give him some of our fur skins.” I said that was a bit like using money but more difficult because you had to find someone who had what you wanted and wanted what you had. With money all you had to find was someone who had what you wanted. Then they could use your money to buy what they wanted from someone else. I showed her some coins and she thought they were very pretty. She said if she had some she would make them into a necklace not swap them for salt. So I gave her ten one-centime coins to keep.
Mum said that, as we couldn't go with her, we could walk along the farm lane and meet her when she was coming back.
Neria saw Mum leaving in the car. “What's that? Is it a sort of animal you've tamed? Or does electricity make it go?”
So now I needed to explain how cars work. It's not easy when the person you are teaching doesn't even understand what wheels are. I took her to see our little tractor where it is easier to see its insides than a car. Dad even started it and let me drive it across the field. Neria was most impressed.
Once the tractor was back in its barn, Neria and I set off along the farm lane to the road Mum would come along on the way back from the shops. Neria spotted a dead rabbit that had been killed by a car but not squashed flat. She seemed really pleased “Now I can make a nice meal for you all”.
Mum didn't seem really pleased about Neria's rabbit but she let her bring it home in the car. Neria asked if she could cook it in the garden “I don't know how to use all the electric things in your kitchen.” Mum thought a barbecue would be much better than an indoor meal, so Neria started work and wanted me to help.
Neria issued the instructions "I'll get the fire going. Have you got a cooking pot? When you've got it, you can skin and gut the rabbit while I find some vegetables."
I didn't think this was a very good idea: I'd never skinned and gutted anything and I wasn't sure I wanted to. So I said "I know where all the best vegetables grow: you do the rabbit and I'll find the vegetables." First I got her a really big iron pot which we use for barbecue meals. She was most impressed "It's really strong, I'm sure it won't break like our clay ones keep doing."
It didn't take long to get the vegetables: I just went to Mum's kitchen garden and dug up some potatoes and carrots and picked some beans. Neria was amazed at how quick I had been and had never seen potatoes before. Our beans and carrots were much bigger and juicer than the wild ones she ate at home.
She had got on well with skinning the rabbit. She had borrowed one of Mum's sharp knives ("much sharper than my flint ones") and cut slits in the skin without cutting right through to the rabbit's insides. Then she sort of peeled the skin off like a Mum taking a Baby-Grow off a baby, just leaving it with booties, mittens and a bonnet. When it was undressed, the rabbit still had fur socks on its feet and fur all over its head. My Granny used to say "Skin a rabbit" when she was getting me ready for a bath. Now I know why.
Then she cut into the rabbit's tummy and took out all the slimy, smelly bits but she sorted out the liver and heart and kidneys and put them in the cooking pot with all the meaty bits of the rabbit. I washed my vegetables and cut them up before putting them in with the rabbit. When the water had been added, I asked if we should put in some salt. She explained "Salt's much too valuable to use in a stew. It's just for making fish and meat last right through the winter without going rotten."
Then she suggested "Why don't you get some of those wild garlic leaves from your little wood? They make it taste nice."
We soon had the fire going well, thanks to my magic matches, and about an hour and a half later the meal was ready. We used plates and knives and forks and I had to show Neria how we used them. Mum and Dad ate lots and I think they were telling the truth when they said it was really good. They asked what we had made for pudding. Neria said "There's loads of blackberries on those bramble bushes. We always eat them as we pick them, it's easier like that."
After our meal we could escape to go up the hill to check the sheep and have a swim. Well that's what we told Mum and Dad but I think we might fit in another trip to Neria's home.
I hope so anyway.
Things to think about
- Would Edouard use the same money as us?
- How would you explain how a car works to Neria?
- Have you ever eaten a wild animal?
- If Neria takes the ten pretty coins home with her what will her parents and friends think they are?
- Why hadn't Neria ever seen potatoes before?`
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