Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ukulele: "comfort food" at any age

Ukuleles are commonly associated with music from Hawaii where the name roughly translates as "jumping flea,"[4] perhaps due to movement of the player's fingers. Legend attributes it to the nickname of Englishman Edward William Purvis, one of King Kalākaua's officers, due to his small size, fidgety manner, and playing expertise. According to Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, the name means “the gift that came here,” from the Hawaiian words uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come).
Developed in the 1880s, the ukulele is based on two small guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin, the cavaquinho and the rajao, introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde.[5] Three immigrants in particular, Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers.[6] Two weeks after they disembarked from the SS Ravenscrag in late August 1879, the Hawaiian Gazette reported that "Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, have been delighting the people with nightly street concerts."[7]
 From Wikipedia "History of the ukulele"

First, a recipe ... 

Last week Pete and I gathered at a friend's home to remember the Ancestors. It was potluck, and a time to cook up one of the simple comfort foods I can whip up in one pot. Simple. Delicious. Comforting. A great recipe. I made Ginger Chicken with Onions and Bok Choy. A four ingredients, one pot meal.
  1. Boneless organic chicken thighs came from our local meat case in town
  2. Round organic onions are on sale at that same market -- I bought a bunch earlier this week
  3. Pete harvested the bok choy from the Good Cheer Gardens on Wednesday
  4. And the essential final ingredient "Hawaii-grown ginger" bought on a trip across the pond (off the island).
How to make it:

Drizzle the bottom of a good heavy pot with Olive Oil (I rarely measure).
Heat the oil while you slice up the onion (I used 1/2 an onion).
Toss the sliced onions into the heated oil.
Then slice the chicken thighs into strips (Keep an eye on the onions and stir them with a wooden spoon to keep from burning).
Toss the chicken slices onto the onions and stir (If the onion-chicken mixture sticks to the bottom of the pot add a little more oil)
Once the two ingredients start to simmer and dance grate fresh ginger over the mixture. (Again, I don't measure. Depending upon your passion for ginger grate a little or a lot. My eyes usually tell me "Enough!" and the nose will smell what your mouth will eventually eat.)
Cover the pot and keep the temperature at 'just simmer' for about thirty minutes. Chicken will cook quickly when sliced thin. We enjoy the meat tender and not dried out but cooked through.

While the food melds and mingles wash and chop the bok choy. Bok choy will wilt a little with cooking and add its unique flavor as it does so. I chopped at least 6 cups of bok choy to 6 chicken thighs.

Add the chopped vegetable to the pot, cover and let cook for another thirty minutes.

Pau (done). Good ingredients flavor this simple dish that uses no salt. Serve this with steamed brown rice, or if you have "Long Rice" (Mung Bean Threads) add the threads to the pot when you add the bok choy. You'll need to add more water to the "Long Rice" to soften the mung bean threads. (I take a scissors and cut up the long threads into more manageable lengths once the threads are soft). I didn't steam rice or use mung bean threads for the potluck, thinking there would be lots of other stuff.

Now the ukulele ...

The invitation to the night of Dia del Muertos said we could bring music as well as tears, stories and food. I have a sweet old ukulele. The ukulele was a gift from one of our oldest and dearest friends. When Pete and I prepared to move our vardo from Everett, where we lived with this dear friend and his wife(also a dear), there was an old ukulele stored in the basement. My friend is no musician but he is a collector of things. He discovered the old mahogany beauty at a garage sale on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii. When he discovered I was hunting for an ukulele he said, "Here. You can't find your mother's ukulele, and I'll never play this one," we cried at the exchange. Remembering how much my Ma loved this man, I was blessed with both the memory and the present. Giving without strings works that way.

During the celebrating of the Ancestors each of us shared the names and stories of  loved ones we came to remember. The stories were precious and unique to the teller and common to the nature of being human. Loss, secrets, funny tales, amends... With the vale of time sheer and permeable it was a sweet way to be with new people and witness commonalities. My Ma was a talented musician who played a termite-eaten upright piano with the grace of the wind. She could read music, but played easily by-ear. Though we never had an ukulele while I was growing up, later in her life, Ma bought one for herself. A Kamaka Ukulele. A beauty. Her fingers were facile with chords and I was intimidated by her skill, and she was impatient as a teacher. What she knew did not translate to me early on. Music and instruments have been my secret love for ages. I've always loved to sing and the ability to play ukulele has waited all these years.

I brought my ukulele to celebrate the gift of joy, tapped late it is no less sweet a gift. My voice is deeper now and my fingers facile with simple chords: C, F, G, C7, G7. With those five chords I whistle, sing and play music. Play. Music. It's no doubt one of the things that soothes and comforts better than anything. To keep the Ancestors, the 'Aumakua and the company of friends and Pete involved I have a simple medley made up of those 5 chords and the 12 letters of the Hawaiian alphabet.   

We made music. Swept time clean. Remembered how love claims all victorious. And, we smiled as we sang the alphabet ...

Many years ago I remember the first time I read a story about prayer. Perhaps you know this story.

"One day, I was out for a walk. It was very quiet. Somewhere I heard a child's voice. As I walked and got closer I saw the face of the child. She had her hands together and eyes shut. Closer still I got and hear her saying the alphabet.

'What are you doing,' I asked? She answered, 'I'm saying my prayers.

''It sounded like you were saying the alphabet,' was my adult reply.
'Yes,' the child smiled. 'God knows how to make up the words.'
Praying, playing. Playing ukulele.

Here are a couple inspiring and fun! sites for "ukulele recipes" y.ou might enjoy
Ukulele Underground 
... I'm practicing the difficult chords with this video. The dimples and the smile help a lot!

Plenty of reasons to learn to play Ukulele
... Link here for some real-life ukulele stories

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