While most of my father’s ancestors emigrated from Poland many decades before he was born, he still embraced some of the dietary customs his relatives had brought with them from their homeland. Among them was a deep love of sausage, both hot and cold. As a result, I grew up eating various types of fresh and smoked kielbasa, duck’s blood sausage, and — my favorite — a delicious pork summer sausage made in a Polish butcher shop near the Chicago neighborhood where my grandmother lived all of her life.
Throughout my own adulthood, sausage has played only a minor role in my diet. Nonetheless, when I recently spotted a rancher at my farmers market selling ostrich summer sausage, I couldn’t resist buying it. I brought it home, sliced off a respectable chunk, and popped it in my mouth. The memories of the countless, delicious summer sausages of my childhood came flooding back to me, and I wondered whether my Polish ancestors had ever had the opportunity to eat an ostrich.
Thiswishboneis a remnant of a meal well-cooked and much-enjoyed. Its very presence means that the pleasure of the meal outlasts the actual eating of the meal, both in the moment the wish is made, and for years — even decades — thereafter as the memory of playfully making that wish resurfaces. It’s heartbreaking to think that a generation of children being raised on chicken nuggets may never learn what awishbonelooks like, much less enjoy the experience of making — and winning — a wish.
Roast chicken is one of those classic dishes that seems as if it should be easy to prepare. After all, if our great grandmothers could roast chicken in temperamental wood-burning ovens on the prairies and in coal-burning ovens in crowded tenement housing, shouldn’t we be able to roast chicken effortlessly in modern kitchens? Still, I think I made 6 or 8 failed attempts before learning how to get it just right. I’m glad I didn’t stop trying . . . and I hope you don’t, either.