1 lb. of sliced/cubed boneless chicken tenders
1 small onion
1 head of organic garlic
1 cup of water
Cut the ends of the chayote with a knife. Peel the skin off the chayote with a peeler. Cut the chayote in halves. Scoop out the pit seeds with a spoon. Cut the chayote into third sized cubes. Set aside in a bowl.
Cut the ends of the onion with a knife. Cut the onion in halves. Peel the sheath off the onion. Lay one of the halves with the round side up. Dice the onion half into smaller pieces and put into a bowl.
Unpackage the garlic head pieces and set on the cutting board. Take a knife and mince the garlic head into small fine pieces. Use all of it. Put into the bowl with the onion.
Take a small sauce pot and fill it half way with water. Bring was in pot to a boil. Add salt and cooking oil to quicken the boiling rate. Throw in chayote and let it boil for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Boil until it is fork tender. Remove chayote and let it cool in a strainer. Dump out excess water.
Take a frying pan and add vegetable oil to it. Set frying pan over medium-high heat. Listen for the sizzling of the oil. Input the onions, salt, and garlic together. Let them sautéed until the onions and garlic glisten. Add in chicken tenders and add salt to taste. Bring heat to a medium-low range. Sautéed the chicken until brown. Add tiny amounts of water, if the chicken starts to stick to the pan. Afterwards, throw in the boiled chayote. Let it cook with the rest of the ingredients. Add small amounts of water, until it becomes more like a soup.
The Jasmine brown or white rice should be cooking in the rice cooker already. This was done 40 minutes prior. The Tinola is finished when the chicken and chayote are tender. It shouldn’t take longer than 20 to 30 minutes to cook. Serve Tinola over rice. Serves two to three people.
Lola use to feed us Tinola when we were sick. I remember it vivid as day. Madre would bring me to Lola’s house, because I was too sick to go to the children’s center or regular kindergarten. Madre couldn’t take care of me. She had to work her three jobs to support our family of six. Dad went to work as a mechanical engineer at 5 a.m. in the morning. Madre dropped off my brothers and sister at school. However, she was inconvenienced by needing to take me further down to Lola’s house.
I remember the entrance. The tall, itchy cypress bushes that stood as centurions to the house. The yellow popcorn stucco façade. There was the one brown banana tree that never grew a single banana in my childhood career. The black wrought-iron fence with the “Beware of Dog” sign. The sign had a picture of a Rottweiler on it. The chain-linked fence that marked the territory of the family’s legacy. My grandparents were actually renting the front house property. My aunt’s children, my cousins, lived in the back part of the house. It was the 1990s in Wilmington, CA. I always felt safer at Lola’s house versus living in the projects only two miles down.
Mother would knock on the wrought-iron door. The metallic bangs of rusted door. Lolo opened the door. He would look down towering over me us with his stoic countenance. He rarely smiled. He had a serious look on his face. A face past tan but darkened by many baking suns when he lived in the Philippines. A face that saw many moons and monsoons of hard farm labor. He did raise a family of 18. Lolo’s feather white buzzed hair crowned his dark mocha head. There would be a greeting in Tagalog. Lolo and Madre said hello. Madre kissed Lolo on the cheek. I would wait for Madre to give me permission to hug Lolo and say hi. I would do so with a nervous smile, but willing love. Lolo’s side hugs were tender, and he would smile for a split second. After the embrace, he would return to his wooden rocking chair, with the stoic face, and watch his “Price is Right.” How he was glued to that rocking chair next to the front door? He would look in and out the front door for any commotion.
Sometimes, he would have on his crinkled Laker hat on hiding his feather white hair. He would chew on his Halls honey cough drops. He would smell like menthol, cough drops and the Electric Blue aftershave. He would wear his sweats, cotton zip up hoodie, white Fruit of the Loom undershirt, white socks, and Adidas chanclas. How he would drag his feet around in those Adidas chanclas? A sort of sliding sound with puffs of air. My favorite time to hear the chancla sounds, was when Lola took her afternoon nap. Lolo would make his way to the kitchen. However, the chanclas made a softer sort of gliding sounds with puffs of air. Lolo treaded gently, because he didn’t want to awake Lola in a feisty frenzy. There was always something naughty about the way he would snuck around the house during Lola’s siesta hour.
It was my favorite sound, because it meant a Hershey’s or Crunch chocolate bar coming down from its hiding place. Lola tried to hide the candy bars in different places, but Lolo would always find them. It was extraordinary to my little kindergarten mind; the very few words Lolo ever exchanged with me. Throughout all these little secret stealing rendezvous; he never said a word. He would just open the cabinet doors, slip out a candy bar, open the wrapper with a quiet precision, break it into halves, and hand me one of the pieces. He proceeded to put the candy wrapper in his pocket, and he would discard it outside at a later time. He would usher me back into the living room. He would return to his rocking chair next to the front door. I would sit on the sofa covered in plastic. It was next to the front window onlooking the street. We would quietly enjoy our booty. Afterwards, Lolo would go out for a porch smoke, watch TV or take a nap with Lola. I would be left to wander in my imagination, until I was too tired to think anymore. I was sick after all…Then, I would take a nap drooling on a pile of my dark brown Filipina-Mexicana wavy hair. I didn’t want to get drool onto the plastic couch cover. I didn’t want to make Lola upset. In the summer, the couch was sticky with sweat, because it was so humid.
Within, a few hours Lola would awake from her slumber. She would go straight into the kitchen and make clanging and banging sounds. She was getting ready to make lunch. The next stage would be the chopping and coughing phase. I couldn’t sleep anymore, because she came into the living room to to apply Vapor rub on my throat, chest, and back. She handed me a few cough drops, and she told me to drink my water and Ovaltine. Of course, this was all said in basic Tagalog. How can you sleep with Vapor rub vapors overwhelming your nostrils? But, I could breathe again with less coughs. I would sit there bored and watched the afternoon soap operas she would leave running. I would doze off again. My back would stick to the plastic covered couch.
Like a magician, my Lola would awake me from my nap and usher me into the kitchen. She would say “kumain” in Tagalog. She would proceed to hand me a bowl of rice filled with Tinola broth, chayote, chicken drumsticks, onions, garlic and ginger. She repeated, “kumain” for me to eat. She would clasp her finger to the others in a scooping motion. She would hand me the spoon to eat. She wanted me to always sit at the edge of the table as I ate with her. She didn’t want me to talk or play with her. My Lola was a magician. Only a magician could make the simplistic smells of Tinola conjure up my childhood. My childhood smelled like cannin, chicken, salty broth, cooked ginger and fresh chayote. Tinola, the soup Lola served when we were sick. A memory that never changes.
Author: Kimberly Ramos
Author Bio: I’m a special education teacher that likes to spends her time writing, cooking and volunteering as a hobby. My Filipina and Mexicana American roots run deep within my lifestyle.
Link to social media or website: http://google.com/+KimJim