Thursday, April 9, 2009

the things i do because of love

My mom is a wonderful cook.

isn't she pretty... (you too, dad)

As long as I lived under her roof, I never felt the need to learn to cook. Well, sometimes I felt the need, but then I would realize that if I cooked, my family and I would be eating my mediocre food when we could be eating her delicious food. For the two years I lived away from home before getting married… cereal, canned soup, spaghetti… mmmmmm.

I decided that since I’m a little married wife now, a hemisphere away from home, I should learn to cook. I love Jonathan and he loves food. It’s been a little more difficult to learn to cook here in Ecuador than it would have been in the States, but I’ve been doing a good job according to Jonathan. Locro (traditional Ecuadorian potato-cheese soup), frittata, yummy vegetable stew, rice and beans and corn (we live in South America, remember?), spaghetti (his favorite meal so I’m justified), etc.

Well yesterday my mom gave me a recipe for some vegetable and chicken, stir-fry that sounded pretty good. One of the ingredients was 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. I laughed when she told me that because I knew I would not find a boneless, skinless chicken breast anywhere in Ecuador. I’m lucky I don’t have to kill and gut it.

Off I went to my neighborhood grocer, wishing it was Harmons. Along with the yummy packaged cow tongues, livers, stomachs, various pork parts, etc., were some nicely packaged whole chickens with no heads or anything. It’s nice when your meat doesn’t have a head. So I thought to myself, “there are chicken breasts somewhere in this chicken,” and I bought it.

My mom can attest to the fact that I can’t touch raw meat. It’s gross and gooey and germy. Maybe this is part of the reason I haven’t ever really learned to cook well. BUT, since I love Jonathan and I miss my mom’s cooking, I was going to be brave. I took the gooey chicken out of the plastic and put it on the cutting board. A little plastic bag fell out of its body…cavity that had some red stuff in it. Probably guts. I just set that aside and planned on never touching it again. Since I have eaten a rotisserie chicken before, I found the breast. I thought to myself, “How can I make this look like a chicken breast I would pick up at Harmon’s?” First of all, the chicken had nasty white slimy bumpy skin on it. So I ripped that off. Hey! The breast! Now how to get it off the bones… Well, I’ll just say that I used a knife and did the best I could.

Jonathan called in from the next room that he would like to eat the heart, please. Gross, but whatever. The heart was probably going to be in the gut bag. I must really love Jonathan because I found myself slowly dumping the contents of the gut bag out onto the slimy cutting board to look for the heart. Ew. Feet, with fingernails. Why do chickens have fingernails?

Then the worst part. Out came a big chunk from the gut bag, almost unrecognizable. I looked closer to see what it was and screamed. I know, it seems kind of dramatic, but it truly did scare me. I was already in a bad state with raw chicken slime all over my hands when the horrible shrunken chicken head fell out, beak and all, staring up at me from the salmonella counter top. Jonathan came quickly in to see what had happened and I showed him the head. He just laughed, showed me which blob was the heart, took a picture of me, and went back to his guitar.
Somehow I turned the chicken into little pink cubes, got rid of the bones, bleached the counter top, washed my hands three times, and admired my work. How did I turn this…

Into this…

Maybe we’ll never know, but Jonathan ate it up, heart and all. Me? I had to take a shower after dinner. Half of me is proud of me, and the other half just kind of wishes we were vegetarians.
So, anyone have any good chicken recipes?

In other news, Jonathan and I went to Guamote today for a meeting with some people in another humanitarian organization. (Side note: Guamote, Guano, Guaranda, Guabama, Guayaquil, Guayas, and Gualaquiza are all cities, towns, or villages in Ecuador that get talked about regularly around here. It’s keeping my mind young.) Anyway, one of the employees of this organization needed a few drawings to show to the parents in an indigenous community we work with. She knew Jonathan can draw so she asked him to draw:
· a child with a doctor to represent the medical care that they organize in the communities,
· a mother cooking to show the nutritional training they give,
· a person using a tap with running water to show how they help organize water projects in the communities,
and last, but not least,
· a boy putting on a condom to represent the training they give to adolescents about sexual and reproductive health.

We laughed when we heard that one but they just smiled and asked if that would be okay. What? They were serious? They really are expecting Jonathan to draw a boy putting on a condom? So I asked her again just to make sure. She was sure. She grabbed a book off her desk and was like, “here, let me show you a picture so you know!” Okay, lady, we know how to use a condom… we’re just surprised that that’s what you want us to draw to represent sexual and reproductive health. Yes, condoms can be very effective in preventing AIDS and STDs, but this is a very Catholic country, and the indigenous people are very modest and conservative. Let’s be a little less direct. Plus, Jonathan doesn’t want to draw a boy putting on a condom. Am I immature to think that’s slightly awkward?

In the end, the women decided it would be better to show a teacher holding up a condom and telling a class of teenagers about it. That’s better. As Jonathan was in the middle of drawing, an indigenous boy about 15-years-old walked into the office with his mom. He noticed Jonathan drawing and was immediately extremely interested. So interested, in fact, that he bent down to watch with his head an inch away from Jonathan’s for about 15 minutes.

Hilarious. Maybe if Jonathan would have been drawing a boy putting on a condom, the kid wouldn’t have acted so interested. Or maybe more so.

Well, Mom (in answer to your question), Easter is coming and we haven’t found any jelly beans or Cadbury Eggs. If anyone loves me, they will go buy a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs, freeze them, and shower me with them when we get home.

Easter won’t be quite the same without the delicious candy, BUT you gotta love Catholic countries and no work on Good Friday. Jonathan and I are off to Guayaquil early tomorrow morning for some spiritual reinforcement. I’m excited to see the temple there. I’ve heard it’s beautiful.


David and Brooke Gallagher said...

What a good little wife! I am amazed with your new cooking abilities! Maybe your next post a cow? You can ground the meat your self, that would be cool!!!

cathy said...

Yay, Amanda! I've been thinking about sending you a couple of recipes. You are like Iron Homemaker: Ecuador. Way to butcher the chicken!
Hmmm, a boy putting on a condom? Priceless. He should do it just for his porfolio. You never know.

cathy said...

Oh, I forgot to mention. I once got a rotisserie chicken from Costco. Guess what I found inside the cavity? A cooked chicken head. What's more disturbing, your experience or mine? :)

Zuri said...

I hope you're enjoying your stay in Ecuador.
I think that Ecuador food is gaining recognition worldwide. Ecuador's gastronomy is renowned for its variety and delicious taste. Typical specialties include meat, chicken, fish, potatoes, corn and vegetables.

There is a great variety of exotic fruits and juices too.

Jerrea said...

Amanda, you did well! I'm sooo proud! The chicken head AND the feet would have scared me too! It's always good to know how to cut up a chicken. It's cheaper to buy it whole. The end result looked yummy! Dad wants to know what you did with the drumstick?

Julie said...

Oh my goodness you are much braver than I am. There is no way I would have done that. I hate to touch the raw chicken. But you did great it looked wonderful. I would have screamed if a head fell out as well. I enjoy reading your blog and hearing how life is there.

James McOmber said...

Wow, Amanda, if that isn't love, then I'm not a crusty old man.

Carly said...

they have boneless skinless chicken breasts at the hiberica! but they are in a random freezer by the bread.