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Yellow woman chicken curry Penang style

Article Submitted By: BashkaJacobs
Date: Tue, 7 May 2013 Time: 5:15 PM

In some countries the recipe handed down from mother
To daughter
Is silence
They are assaulted by
not allowing their imaginations
To flower and they endlessly
Repeat themselves with
Self-revealing gestures
Forged by obsession to speak

All women in all countries are full of opacities
and self Contradictions like all other
human beings but
It is their lightening hearts
That can't be silenced
That turns up in pots of soups and stews
That they cook with and
Wit and insights
While making a soup or chopping an eggplant
Or inhaling the fresh herbs pulled from their gardens
Then they are
Suddenly they are transformed
Their hands become the master
And their imaginations are that
Of a queen.

And so begins the story of the yellow queen
Who by destiny has ended up
Without a husband
And many children in a small store
In the Indian section of Penang.
She sits on embroidered cushions
Her face an uneasy color of gold painted
And powdered by turmeric
She sits among her long scarves
Her black goddess statue
Festooned with marigolds
And 24 karat gold necklaces
Indian salvars and kameeszes

The air is heavy with incense
And children run in and out of the store
I have come for long black hairpins
She has none but sends one of her sons
To fetch some for me from another store

I wait and as I wait
she watches
She offers me a seat
And says you have no one to go back to
I’m startled and my mind runs to all the
People I will go back to
But she says again you have no one
Not one special person
No I say... not one special person.
She smiles and invites me into the back
Of the store
Where she begins to cook
A chicken curry

The kitchen is full of jasmine, sandalwood,
Coconut and curries pungent pepper
With the Added borrowed exotic flavors
of Malaysia and Thailand
the Lemon grass and coriander roots
reach my senses along with
Memories of south Indian mountains
The trees, the winds and the drone of the sarod
The call of the venai

Here in this cramped store in this cityscape
Watching this ample women draped in a sari
I was able to conjure as she worked with
The chicken, the chilies and the palm sugar
Slicing bits of galangal and ginger into the pot
And as the onions cooked I could hear
The sounds of the rivers running from the
Mountains into the parched cities
I sat there in her kitchen in
Back of the store watching her throw a
Pinch of this and a dash of that
Cooking by instinct

All the while asking me
what I would do if
It were my store

I told her honestly it was cluttered beyond
Belief that I would empty it all out and start
Again and make it visually appealing
She said how?

we let the food simmer as we pushed
Racks out of the way and made an entry way
While I took scarves and hung them from shelves
I did this and she went back into the kitchen
While her children worked with me
After an hour she came out and sighed
Looked around smiled and said
I am sick
I will die soon

They need someone
they can not do it alone
There is no one
And you have come
I will call and tell them
Suddenly the children came in
young and old
All bowing and kissing my hand
As if it were all preordained
I sat there startled
She said not to worry we will find
A place for you to live
And you can continue to teach

Our friend is in the ministry he can arrange it
Suddenly there was a great sense of solitude
And responsibility settling on my shoulders
She was bestowing me with her life
I was a stranger;
I just wanted a few long hairpins
Now there were to be the incessant pleas children
The complex negotiations with stores
The cacophony of life
I looked at her sweet eyes
And powdered yellow skin
Her lovely silken sari
The 24 karat gold necklace
I smiled and smelled the chicken
In the other room

as we went to eat
I said you offer me a full life
But it is not my own
Think about this she said
just consider

Just consider it's
Another life not yet lived.

THE CURRY
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup coconut cream
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon palm sugar
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed
3 shallots, peeled
2 coriander roots, scraped
3 green chili, stems removed
10 slices galangal, peeled
3 kaffir lime leaf
8 ounces mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces (Chanterelles, straw, oyster or Button)
1 lb. boneless skinless (organic please) chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts , cut into bite sized pieces
3 Tablespoons hot Indian curry
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced

1. In a 4 quart saucepan, heat chicken stock, coconut milk, coconut cream, salt and palm sugar to boiling.
2. Meanwhile bruise lemongrass, shallots, coriander roots and chilies using a mortar and pestle.
3. Add to boiling stock along with galangal and lime leaves.
4. Simmer slowly for 20 minutes.
5. Strain out all solids.
6. Return liquid to pot and add chicken and mushrooms.
7. Simmer until chicken is cooked.
8. Add fish sauce and lime juice.
9. Stir to incorporate.
10. Ladle into bowls.
11. Garnish with cilantro and green onion

"All life is wild and fiercely unpredictable"
i remember reading that and thinking
how true that was, although confined
to our habitats and suddenly there is
a portal a possibility to try another life on.

one that will erase the other
my ferry would be leaving soon
and we would roll away from the sun
Thailand was close by
and i would rejoin the life i left behind.

Yellow-woman-chicken-curry-Penang-1.jpg

About the Author

Bashka Jacobs writes poetry & lives in Ohio, USA.


Rating: 5.0

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Submitted: Tue, 7 May 2013 Time: 5:15 PM