Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Legs, not Wings

I've written about my grandmother in other posts. She was a salty gal, as at home wearing hip waders in a flooded basement and using choice profanities as she was powdering her nose before going to 7 a.m Mass. What a woman. Think Annie Oakley with painted toenails. I wouldn't mind being remembered this way.

In other ways, Grandma was surprisingly conventional. The woman was wild for chicken wings. Now bear with me. Loving chicken wings seems like a non-sequitur, but I'm making a Point. No one could understand her wingomania. Why not go for a breast with its large expanse of crispy skin, leaving the dry, tacky stuff for the dog, or a juicy leg? Who in their right mind would choose a wing? There's virtually no meat on them, and they're a pain in the ass to eat.

My mother's theory was that Grandma, who grew up in a big family, got whatever was left over. And learned to love it.

When I lived with her, she did most of the cooking, because her kitchen was her palace. She claimed I was too busy with my studies to muss my hands with cooking. But about once a month, she'd beg me to make these Asian-spiced chicken wings I got from an old Craig-Claiborne-does-Chinese-cooking. They're made with star anise and stick cinnamon, and they are pretty damned good, for chicken wings. I haven't made this recipe in years, as my husband and kids think anise tastes terrible. Maybe instead of those wretched deep fried wings with bleu cheese dressing people serve at Super Bowl parties, I'll invite over some people who would appreciate wings stewed with star anise and stick cinnamon.

As for that Point I promised to make--sometimes eating what's left over is good discipline. Like so much in her life, Grandma made the best of her circumstances. She knew how to put aside her desires and share, and that's a good thing.

What she wasn't so great at was communicating what she wanted. A lot of us, especially females, lack this skill.  Sometimes it's somebody else's turn to share, especially in the daily give-and-take of family life.

So go ahead--tell your familiars you're taking the pick of the litter tonight, whether it's from a platter of chicken or the thickest steak. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite. Don't worry, you're not going to forget how to share. It's like riding a bicycle. Where you need practice most is in putting yourself first.