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Back to the Motherland Part 2: Know Your Food

I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

Let me tell you my experience with chickens. Graphic descriptions coming up so if you can’t handle it, click the “x” now. Judgement free zone here, y’all.

My grandma is a badass. She is the zero-waste, all-natural-organic farmer that “foodie critics” wish they knew about 20 years ago. She can take care of multiple children at once, raise delicious animals and also make you the best damn rice porridge when you are in bed with a fever. I’ve been in China for three months now and I haven’t found one that rivals my grandma’s. Fight me on this, I dare you.

She also tried to raise me to be a badass. “Tried” is the word of the day here. We would get up super early on the weekends to go to the flea market in Mustang to get live free-range chickens. Get around 10 in some bags and throw them in the trunk and go back home. My mom and my aunts would have huge pots of boiling hot water ready. I dreaded these mornings so much. I’d rather be going to the restaurant.

Michelle, her brothers and grandma

Grandma taught me how to kill the chickens. We didn’t do it in the typical American farmer way, either. We used almost every part of the chicken.

First we drained the blood, which we kept to use in soups or sauces. Chicken blood with Thai chilies is the original Sriracha, you know.

Then we boiled the chicken until soaked, so we could defeather them quickly. It smelled so awful and this job was typically the most grueling.

After that we cleaned the insides. We cleaned the heart and other organs thoroughly and then stuffed them back in, broke its legs so they folded into the chickens opening and froze it.

The chickens were perfect for soups. We typically boiled them until only a little pink remained and then served it with a dipping sauce made of white pepper and fish sauce.

This method and preparation is still the standard here in China. You have to have some hardy gut bacteria to process the slightly undercooked chicken. I cried the first time I tasted over-cooked chicken at a friend’s house. I would rather risk the food poisoning then eat over-cooked, dried-out bland chicken. Give me moist chicken or give me death!

Fun fact: we raised some chicks in Edmond for roughly nine months. My grandma let my brothers and I each pick out a chick. We were so happy! Our first pets! We named them, took care of them and I spent some quality time with them in the hen house. They would fall asleep in my lap as I read them stories. So presh.

Well, as they got older, we realized one of them was a male and he started the day for the whole neighborhood. I thought this was a good thing! Now everyone knows when to get up. Haha…. you guys can imagine what happened next.

Grandma secretly took care of all of them while we were at school. Cosa Nostra-style took care of them. She didn’t even try to hide it, either. I didn’t eat chicken for a month because we had chicken every week. My grandma congratulated me on raising such tender and delicious chickens. She really felt the love.

About the Author

Michelle Nhin is a native Oklahomie, currently living in China. At 26 years old, she is still waiting for her Hogwarts letter. Michelle is the only girl and middle child of three. She is Chinese/Vietnamese/American and a restaurant kid. When she isn't stuffing her face with food, you can find her napping. Michelle sometimes likes cooking, running, reading, traveling and practicing languages and spells. She hates raw onions and is allergic to alcohol. Michelle hopes to make the world a better place by spreading kindness, understanding and her great puns.