Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Oyster in the Chicken

I am pulling the tender meat off a cooked chicken, the flesh is soft and almost waxy, greasy with tasty fat and salty bits. I remember to get "the oyster" and I have a flashback of thirty years ago when I saw my mother pulling the meat off a carcass of a cooked chicken, preparing it for "Jook" or Chinese rice porridge, as I am doing now. She was peaceful, standing in front of the sink, sunlights shining on her round face, wisps of black hair over her ears...and she gently pulled apart the bones and wings to get every morsel of meat. As a curious child I asked her what she was doing, and she showed me, turning the chicken over and pointing out not to forget " the oyster". She pushed out a perfect oval shaped piece of slightly pinker meat, noticeably softer, and whispered in conspiracy, "It's my favorite part, the most tender, do you want it?" She held it out, fingers coated in grease, invitingly, happily, with an excited smile on her face. When she saw my hesitation her mind went to my siblings,"There's two, I'll put the other in the Jook." she said. I took the special morsel as a sacred honor, bit into it and noticed indeed it was more tender and flavorful. It instantly became my favorite too, and I will never forget that one moment when my mother taught me how to take them meat off a chicken, prepare Jook and treated me special, just that once, to have the whole oyster all to myself.
It occured to me that it's "something" to know how to cook Jook and get the oyster off the chicken. Not everyone knows that probably...
and then I though about all the other things my mother has taught me.
How to find the tiniest treasures in the snow or on a nature hike.
How to always say three good things before you say one constructive criticism to anyone.
How to, when you are made at someone, sit down and write three good things about them.
How to, when making flower arrangements, always put things in odd numbers. Three is good. ( She has three children, see a running theme here?)
How to say I love you frequently,daily, and include a hug.
How to wonder at children and play with them in their world.
How to laugh at the silliest of jokes and be free.
How to talk in front of people authentically, gracefully and be the source of laughter without trying to cause it.
How to give generously.
How to be creative even if you don't think you are "skilled enough".
How to be a friend and do fun things with them often.
How to travel adventurously.

I have learned much from my mother....often times she didn't intend to teach me what she did, but I was watching.
I still am, as she is source not only of great knowledge, but of great love.
And she can make the most mouthwatering Jook you ever tasted.
Recipe here:

Boil then simmer a cooked chicken carcass, meat removed, covered in water ( about a half gallon) for about two hours. Use a sieve and pour broth into another large pot and remove any more loose meat from the leftover bones and add to the broth. Add about 2 cups of cooked rice, depending on how much broth you made, so that it still looks soupy. Rice will expand dramatically. Add leftover cooked chicken, about 1 cup. Add 1 inch of minced fresh ginger ( skin removed) and it it easier to cut if frozen OR add one teaspoon of jarred ginger. Add three teaspoons of Soy Sauce, Tamari or Braggs. Stir occasionally and and cook for about 30 minutes, until rice has curled and expanded and porridge is somewhat thick. Chopped fresh scallions and scatter on top and serve immediately.
This is a fabulous breakfast or lunch on a cold day.
Chicken broth is a natural antibiotic, so it promotes good health too!
Thanks Mom!

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