Far Above Rubies
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
“Don’t get boneless chicken breasts if you can help it. Get the ones with the bones in. It will make for a more flavorful dish.”
These words of advice play in my mind like a favorite song as I stroll the grocery aisles for the ingredients to make my great-aunt’s simple yet satisfying recipe for chicken and noodles. My eyes scan over the chicken legs and wings until they rest upon the breasts. I choose a nice package, bones included, and place it in my cart. My next destination is the produce aisle to select the vegetables.
I love this recipe almost as much as I love the woman who created it. I spent my childhood summers with her. She lived only seventy-five miles from me but in my young mind, it was a world away. I remember watching multi-lane freeways give way to country roads with two-way traffic during the drive to her house. How quickly the landscape changed from billboards and concrete to thick piney woods and grassy fields where horses and cows grazed! I was the most excited when we turned into my great-aunt’s driveway because I knew for the next eight weeks I would be under her relaxed care. She knew how to let a kid be a kid and didn’t have all those rules my parents enforced. My favorite moments were the times spent observing her while she prepared our lunch and dinners. I would perch myself upon a green cushioned stool and watch as she seasoned, chopped and stirred. If she were mixing batter for a cake, I would be given the beaters to lick. The sweet and buttery taste was a special treat. I had no idea she was providing me with skills and memories that would last a lifetime.
With my vegetables in the cart, I walk to the pasta aisle for egg noodles then onward for the cream of chicken soup. Satisfied that I have all that I need, I head to the checkout.
Back home, I rough chop the vegetables to boil with the seasoned chicken for the stock. I think of my aunt’s hands. I can still see them clasped together while she and I were on our knees beside my bed. She listened as I recited the Lord’s Prayer. When I finished, she would nod approvingly then tuck me in for the night. Participating in her family’s spiritual nourishment was more important to her than preparing our delicious meals. She knew bread alone was not enough and never missed an opportunity to share her love of God with us.
I prepare the chicken and noodles following her steps of sautéing chopped bell pepper, green onions and celery in butter then adding the cream of chicken soup, shredded, cooked chicken and stock. The cooked egg noodles are added last.
I can hardly wait to spoon the noodles into my bowl. One taste and I am transported in time. I am no longer a grown woman with responsibilities but a carefree young girl swinging her legs as she sits atop a stool. I am grateful for all the women that instilled the values that have guided me through life’s peaks and valleys. This moment, however, I am especially grateful for an unassuming woman who made such an impression by simply living her life as an example for others. I reach for the phone to dial her number so I can tell her.
Right after I take one more bite of the noodles.