Wednesday, May 18, 2011

They come in all sizes: a wishbone the size of a quarter

After eight months, I have finally made it full circle and am following up on my comparison of chicken in the States in Russia and FINALLY in Korea. While I have been eating chicken for eight months, and more than likely I bought my first whole chicken after less than a month of being here, my observation comes about mainly because I found a wishbone for the first time in my life.

Wishbones bring a certain air of nostalgia with them (for me anyway).

I remember playing tug-of-war with my sister over the wishbone as a kid.

After the chicken was cut into parts, we would wait, eagerly anticipating that fateful moment which would determine whose wish came true. Of course, because the wishbone had to dry and get brittle, so it would break and not bend, usually by the time it was dry enough, we had forgotten about it.

But eventually, one evening, after dinner and after the dishes were finished, someone would find the dried-out, ripe wishbone on the window seal behind the sink. Suddenly, we would remember that we had a potential wish coming.

My sister would grab one side of the wishbone, and I would grab the other. Then, we would pull. Most of the time this was a quick process. The wishbone would snap in two. As a result, one of us would get the larger part as well as our wish, but when we were very young or if the wishbone came from a particularly hearty chicken or we didn’t wait quite long enough, it could be a struggle.

Occasionally, wishes must be earned.

Despite the nostalgia, many of my wishbone memories involve wishing and tug-of-war, not the wishbone directly after it came out of the chicken. I think some part of me knew it was like a human’s collarbone, and it would be located at the top of the breast. Yet, I had never deliberately looked for the wishbone. I realized for the first time the other day, that I had never found one AND I wasn’t one hundred percent certain of its location. My theory, and I was right, was that I usually cut it in half in the process of extracting the breast meat.

Today, tired of eating eggs and not quite in the mood to splurge on beef as I did, for the first time, last Friday, I eyed the chicken.

In the supermarket near my apartment there is a whole section for chicken. Categorized shelves display different sizes, cuts, and seasonings. Despite myriad options, or perhaps because of them, I grabbed the least expensive chicken. When I picked it up, I realized, even for Russian chicken standards this one would be considered small. Yet, it sat on the shelf next to enormous beast chicken and even rooster!

Thinking I had picked a decent chicken, I got it home, and started cutting it apart. Unfortunately, small does not mean active. Chicken in Korea comes in literally all shapes, sizes, and fat contents. Perhaps if I could understand the Korean I can sound out, then I would be able to discern between sedentary chickens and chickens who got to “run around like chickens with their heads cut off”.

As I cut the chicken, I remembered that I wanted to find the wishbone and searched briefly before finding it. Unless my memory of wishbones is faulty, I now have evidence for how small this chicken was. And in discovering the location of the wishbone, I now have an objective way to measure the size of chickens throughout the world …

Specimen 1: Chicken from MegaMart in Ulsan, Korea. Purchased 18 May 2011.

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