Women of Valor

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Chicken Foot Stew

Barbara Myerhoff, 1935 - 1985

"Being so rooted in their Judaism helped the old people in their struggles and celebrations. They were sufficiently comfortable with it to improvise upon it and adapt it freely as needed, for small requirements and large. Basha exemplified this when she described her dinner preparations. She ate alone in her tiny room. Over an electric hot plate, she cooked her chicken foot stew (chicken feet were free at the supermarket). Before eating, she spread a white linen handkerchief over the oilcloth covering the table, saying:

"This my mother taught me to do. No matter how poor, we would eat off clean white linen, and say the prayers before touching anything to the mouth. And so I do it still. Whenever I sit down, I eat with God, my mother, and all the Jews who are doing these same things even if I can't see them."

"Such a meal is a feast, superior to fine fare hastily eaten, without ceremony, attention, or significance. Because of such things, I came to see the Center elderly as in possession of the philosophers' stone- that universally sought, ever-elusive treasure, harboring the secret that would teach us how to transmute base metals into pure gold. The stone, like the bluebird's feather of happiness, is said to be overlooked precisely because it is so close to us, hidden in the dust at our feet."

Notes: 
  1. Entire quote from Myerhoff, Barbara, Number Our Days (New York: Dutton, 1978) 22.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Barbara Myerhoff - Chicken Foot Stew." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/myerhoff/chicken-foot-stew>.