Sitting in North America, the most positive thing you can say about chicken is that it's cheap and of course with careful breeding, it has no fat. As a result, the tasteless, amorphous cuttings of chicken parts need to be covered and cooked in oil or drowned in spices and sauces or ground into pinky looking staff that can add a hint of protein to otherwise uninteresting meals but you know it wasn't always thus.
Come to rural Asia and running on the road under your wheels in full play with village children is the historic chicken that we knew in North America at the turn of the 20th. Entury.
They are not pretty. They're of the small size. They are the ultimate definition of free range if you can call village housing a range. But, they have a unique advantage. They actually have taste. They are the living memory of why many great culinary dishes of the 19th century had chicken at their core. What they lack in size, they make up for in a gusto of flavour that can make a soup or dumplings a living walk down your great grandmas cookbook.
Below is Speedy Recipe's youtube video of Tinolang Manok, Chicken, a traditional Filipino Chicken Soup recipe.
Asian village cuisine doesn't worry too much about niceties. Defeathered and cleaned, they're plucked into the stew pot, head, feet and all and given two to 3 hours of serious bubbling. Then they're cut into pieces usually crosswise so that the outcome requires work. In goes the chilli, garlic, spic and greens and the outcome is a dish most North American or even Europeans west of Poland can't even imagine.
The lesson in this is one we've all learned that the first loss in food when breeding makes the units bigger or better shaped or less fatty, is the flavour. The same lesson can be learned with Italian tomatoes or almost any Sicilian vegetables. Hello bulk...goodbye taste.
No one brings Asian chicken to North America and as they can't fly you're going to have to fly here. If for no other reason, these little scrawny road runners make a trip to Cambodia, or Laos or Myanmar worth a ticket.
You can never go back. We’re here where we are and that’s the end of it. But, we can still get a feeling for what history at the human level gave to our forefathers.
Go to the country. Go to the rice paddies and the wheat fields and the threshing barns and the animal sheds. Sit if you can and try to think of what each passing day was like for our ancestors who had this as their daily view and daily sense of identity.
They were an extension of the land. They worked it as much as it worked them. There was a life of necessary balance requiring that what was taken out be put back. It was a whole different world than living in the 21st floor in a condominium linked to an unrecognizable ground by a stainless steel elevator.
A rural vacation is your chance to go farming in your own history, to avoid the world of Disneyland rocket museums and space fantasy rides and to become part of a whole different world with different pressures and different values and a very different way of thinking.
In most of our countries, in the early 1800’s, 60% of the population were rural. Lonely farms feeding tiny villages with a church and a school and a store feeding provincial towns with perhaps a restaurant, law office, a municipal court and a welcome bar.
Few lived in cities and for most of those who did, life was seen as brutal and short so a rural vacation is really a chance to find out what we were for all of history before the last 100 years. There was nothing romantic about the country life except for the Downton Abbey brigade and its ilk.
Working a team pulling logs or a plow or a wagon was tough dangerous work. Preparing food from absolute scratch everyday was a total commitment.
Almost any household chore with no electricity was consummately demanding but people had a relationship with the animals and the trees and crops and rivers with whom they shared their lives. There was no race through life to an old people’s home.
There was a family that started working as soon as they could walk and cared for their old folks until they cross the rainbow bridge.
Each generation had to find tasks and were respected for contributing within those expectations. So, a rural vacation is not only a chance to participate in some of the old farming chores but a chance to put yourself into the history you’ve grown from.
The country is a different world, a different life and a daily challenge in a totally different way than performing in an office or university or factory. Today, wer’e obsessed with physical fitness, a problem that sunrise to sunset farm folk were not very concerned with. We are completely detached from the sources of our food. Other than on television, most children have never seen a cow or a horse or they think of a goat as just like what mommy calls Grandpa.
But it’s not lost. It’s all out there and children deserve to see it and live it a bit and get a feeling for our history as a measuring rod to assess the concept of progress, the meaning of success, and the terrible linkage between what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost.
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Remember those days when, with basket in one hand and your Mother in the other, you went off to your local market? Of course, for many of us, the supermarket has taken the place of these local markets.
But you know what, here in Phnom Penh, this is still how many Cambodians shop. They walk to the closest local market and buy their daily supplies, fresh and coming from the local farmers whom you see deliver these in their mopeds.
So, yesterday, I started early and walked to the Kabko market close to where we stay. I have been here before but I always find it convenient to go to the supermarket. I usually do my shopping later in the day which makes it too hot to walk to the market and most of the sellers by that time have folded up or are asleep.
What's nice is, short though the walk is to the local market, it still gives me a chance to check out some of the shops on the way. This time, I went into a clohes shop and found that the clothes in there were made in Italy. No wonder the display was very attractive. I had fun browsing and seeing some of the latest designs.
As I approached the market, I immediately spotted the Lady from whom I buy fruits. Before, I bought from her some of the sweetest papayas. This time, another customer told me that she buys from her all the time because of the quality of her fruits.
I asked about a particular fruit which I did not recognize and the customer offered me one to taste. I hesitated as it has not been washed. Thank goodness, the seller immediately added a few for free to my purchase so I can try it. It made me feel a bit better.
From there, I decided to get some vegetables I have tried but not cooked and here are my purchases: squash leaves, squash flowers, and greens.
It was quite exhilirating for me having had, as a child, fun memories of trips to our market. It was exactly like this. Phnom Penh, though, is a much bigger city now but here in the local market you still see people engaging with each other, just being part of a community and going there often makes them take you in as one of them.
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Also, if you want more on Phnom Penh makrkets, click this link: Phnom Penh's Traditional Markets.
Nothing like travel opens us to learn. It is fun and we get into it. We try out things, we see new things, we do things we have not done before, we meet many new faces and immerse ourselves in new cultures. It's one experience we gift ourselves.
You may have a much more privileged schooling but many children today have still to do with very little in terms of educational facilities.
Below is a village school with a newly donated water system, wash rooms and library. Established in 1979, it was only in 2015 that they got these facilities.
It's Not Ok is not your usual bracelet. It is hand-made by survivors of human trafficking. The message is clear: It is not OK to traffic people enticing them to a better future but instead, what they get is being sold for profit to marriage, farm labour or prostitution.
SheRescueHome trains survivors of human trafficking in skills that will provide them income. Hopefully, this will stop some from being enticed by human traffickers.
You can visit their site at: sherescuehome.org
Fun or Noise?
In the street outside of our hotel in Dublin, these scenes were shot in the early morning between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. Our hotel happened to be right where several clubs with very academic names were located. Reminded us of university days.
Our hotel was kind enough to provide us with ear phones to block the noise if you don't want it but if you want to be part of the fun, go down and be in the street.
Far from the roar of the jet engines and the howl of the ultrafast train and the snarl of the super highways and the flail of the helicopters, there are countries where travel is slow, difficult, sweaty and hammering but small groups sharing space in ox carts and the remorgs and tuktuks and whacked out old taxis share a companionship and a complete absence of urgency which is the antithesis of modern haste.
It's not just a difference in travel or difference in speed and comfort. It's a whole different relationship with the world around you with the rice paddies, the palm oil trees, the muddy rivers and the very simple villages. It's not just a different world, it's really a different planet and even though space travel is not involved the distances are almost beyond imagination.
Religion is integrated into life in everything that happens. The family isn't just important. It's everything. The place of elders, the role of women, the links to the animals that live inside the communities is so far from Chicago or London or even Istanbul.
It's hard to describe these different planets that exist in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America if you haven't sat in a tuktuk on a rotted country path on the weekly trek to the market. When you look at the photographs, you'll see just a hint of transport in some of these remote planets and that hint perhaps will open a door for you in the different worlds we live in.
The transport on top is called Remorg, a favourite of factory workers to go to work. When you go out of Phnom Penh, chances are you'll see several of these right in front of garment factories or on the road ferrying workers to factories.
You will often see the moto on the roads of Cambodia. Several have come to appreciate the use of helmets but only the drivers are required by law to wear one. Most of the time, they only wear their helmets when they know there are police in the streets they are going. But in many cases, you'll see parents wearing one and the kids none.
Like those in sunny climates, their preoccupation is the hat to keep them from getting dark so even when it is hot, it is not unusual to see them wear long sleeve tops and pants.
In the rural areas, the moto is still far from the reach of many farmers who prefer to use their work animals to transport their produce.
In many cities, you will find the moto is the king of transport. For the foreigners, the tuktuk is their preferred ride. You can see some are wearing helmets and others not but most drivers do as the police try to implement this.
Pigs, garbage, chicken, log pipes, huge crystal frames, roofing and wood materials are often transported by moto. They seem to be able to carry so much.