| The chickens in their run! |
Set the scene: two British immigrants, a Sicilian door lady, a bunch of Italian school teachers and six chickens - what could go wrong?
It started one day with an innocent question to a member of staff at the boys' school. Dougie asked after her chickens and during a short and animated conversation we found ourselves bamboozled into bringing 20 eggs for said member of staff (who it turns out we'd mistaken for someone else and didn't have her own chickens at all!). And so egg-gate begins...
"How much are your eggs?" "Err..20 cents each?" we tentatively replied, not having a clue how much we should charge, never expecting to sell our eggs, but knowing roughly how much we had paid for free range eggs in the UK. The response we got was not what we had expected. "20 cents, you CAN'T sell them for that. That's not enough! You HAVE TO charge 30 cents per egg." "No," we said backing away, slightly scared of the Sicilian door lady, with images of godfather movies flashing through our heads,"30 cents is too much. 20 cents is plenty." "Absolutely not, we are paying you 30 cents per egg." So much for the eggonomic crisis I thought (sorry couldn't resist!).
After much discussion and obligatory Italian hand waving, we agreed to meet half way and we accepted 25 cents per egg. I think it is the first time I've ever heard of increasing prices due to consumer pressure.
The following day we went to school with our twenty eggs. Believe me, we had no idea what lay ahead. A request for another thirty eggs...word was spreading quickly about the availability of good quality, local free range eggs. We offered a possible further twenty (six chickens lay quite a lot more eggs than a family of four can eat!) which would use up our stockpile but explained we didn't have enough to bring thirty. No problem, we naively thought, customers satisfied and they will lay another 6 tomorrow and the day after, that will be plenty for us this week.
The next day we presented our twenty remaining eggs, to be met with a demand (and I don't use this word lightly!) for forty more eggs - "no," we explained, "we don't have 40 more eggs" "But the other Maestras (teachers) want them," says our Sicilian door lady, in a tone that means don't mess with me, "and they will be paying 30 cents an egg." "Uh, but it's impossible. The chickens don't lay that many eggs - we only have six of them." "Oh, they only lay one each?" "Yes, one each per day maximum, if they all lay." "Oh, how many can you bring then?" "Uh, none - we don't even have any for ourselves." "Oh...when can you bring forty then?" "Well, we can't!" "Can you bring 20 then?" "We can bring 20 next week." "Next week! Can't you bring them before then?" " No, we need some eggs for ourselves and we need to wait until we have 20 to bring." "Then you need to buy more chickens!"
And so the discussions continued for several weeks! Every time we brought eggs in to school we were asked for more, while we explained over and over that they only lay one egg each per day so we would bring what we could. We got to the point of tossing a coin as to who would take the boys into school and face the wrath of the egg mafia. Eventually, we crumbled under the pressure of the constant demands and increased our chicken flock to 8 , with a couple of losses along the way (there will be another post about that) and yet the demand continues. Long live the egg Mafia!