“Nah, you can have the thigh.” As the youngest and the only grandchild in the family, I often hear this from the adults, who would clip a big fat chicken thigh between their chopsticks, and land it on my bowl, knowing the well intent and meaning behind that simple act.
The chicken thigh is considered the best part of the fowl and usually saved for the precious one (often the youngest in the family.) The older folks also believe that the juicy leg, with fats, calories and all, is good for those still growing up.
But now that I’m grown, this act feels different altogether. As the only child in the family, I was glad I did not have to justify or fight for it. Now at 27, I feel it’s time to pay it back, in the same way I received it.
The act of putting food into another family member’s rice bowl is the Asian, non-verbal way of saying love. Being raised by a pair of fairly unexpressive parents, I have turned out to be equally reserved. The best time to demonstrate love, I took cue from the elders, is at the dining table. A chicken thigh for dad, is like a flower for a lover.
This subtle gesture is beautifully portrayed in local filmmaker, Anthony Chen’s short film “The Reunion Dinner” (see below). The film, which features the Chinese reunion dinner across three different generations, sensitively depicts chicken thigh as the subtext of family love.
In this film, the younger audience can also catch a glimpse of the diminishing culture of eating the reunion dinner at home. Kids used to return home from school to find all the women in the family busy in the kitchen. As the last ingredients entered the wok, and as plumes of smoke filled the air, everyone, dressed comfortably in their pajamas, sat around the table for their most sumptuous meal of the year.
This is a world of difference from today, when most prefer to dress up and eat out at the best restaurants that may not serve that fat and juicy poached chicken thigh…