As a kid I used to love it when mum cooked a roast chicken for dinner. The skin would be really crispy and she would make gravy from all the lovely juices. There would usually be roast potatoes too — one of my favourite foods. It was always such a special dinner, and usually saved for a special treat.
What made it extra special was the wishbone the next day.
This particular part of a chicken can make all your wishes come true.
According to my research on google (and who knows how accurate that may be), this tradition is thousands of years old, stemming from the Etruscan (ancient Italians) people’s belief that a fowl could predict the future. The birds were placed into a circle divided into twenty wedges, with each wedge representing a letter of the Etruscan alphabet. Grain was placed in each wedge and scribes would note which letters of the alphabet the chicken would eat from. The high priest would then use the order of letters to solve questions and predict the future.
Even in death, the birds had powers. The wishbone (or collarbone) was thought to be sacred and was dried out in the sun. People would gather around the dried bone and make a wish. As tradition spread to the Romans, they began to break the bones with two ‘wishers’ each pulling on the sides of the bone with their little fingers. Tradition says that the person left with the larger piece was to have their wish granted.
Thousands of years later, my brother, sister and I would argue over whose turn it was to pull on the bones. Usually the ‘loser’ of this particular game of tug-o-war would be outraged: “it’s not fair” or “you pulled when I wasn’t ready” or “you used too much force”.
Honestly, I don’t know why my mother bothered to keep the jolly bone. It was often worse when my Nan saved us a wishbone. For some reason, her wishbone was extra special. And two pieces of bone never did divide into three children easily.
A few weeks ago I made a roast chicken for the family. It wasn’t the first roast chicken that I’d made, but I realised that I had never introduced my kids to the tradition of a wishbone.
I realised that when supermarkets introduced BBQ chickens (complete with wishbones) to their shelves, the humble roast chicken lost some of its shine. And over time, the wishbone lost its magical properties.
It made me wonder about other special things that blend into the ordinary, once we begin to take them for granted.
- Our children’s (sometimes incessant) chatter
- A rainy day
- The first coffee of the day
- The comfort of our bed at night
- The warmth of a crackling fire on a wintery day
- The sound of birds chirping early in the morning
- Hand-written mail that is just for you
- Taking off shoes that have pinched your feet all day
- The soft glow as the sun goes down
- The smell of freshly mown grass.
This week, I made another roast chicken and I explained to my kids about the wish bone. (I also told them about three children I used to know who fought over the bones!) The kids were quite excited to make their wish.
After a bit of working out how to hold it, and which angle was the better one to pull on, they snapped the bone made their wishes. Of course, one of them was not particularly happy at the outcome. Overall, however they were both excited about the magic of a dried up bit of bone.
I wonder, are there any ‘once magical’ things in your life that you now take for granted?
Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.
She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.
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