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Cooking with Myra: Appreciate little things, help others

By By Myra Starkey
Jan. 17, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 16, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.

Caldo de Pollo

Caldo De Pollo

1 chicken (31/2 to 4 pounds), cut in 8 pieces1 onion, unpeeled and cut in half1 Tbsp. Garlic, chopped2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces1 chayote squash,* peeled, cored and cut in 2-inch pieces1 zucchini, cut 1-inch pieces1/2 cup cilantro, chopped1 tsp. Salt1 avocado, thinly slicedChicken bouillon, optional Garnish

2 limes, cut in wedges Chopped onions

Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water, add onion and garlic, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 11/2 hours, skimming the top occasionally.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, potato and chayote. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are almost done, about 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue to cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables and set aside.

Remove the chicken pieces from the broth and shred into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.

Strain the broth into a clean saucepan. Add chicken bouillon to the broth for a richer chicken flavor. Boil over high heat until reduced to 10 cups, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken, vegetables, cilantro, rice and salt.

Cook over medium heat just until heated through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the avocado.

Serve in bowls with the lime wedges and chopped onions alongside. This recipe yields 8 servings.

*Chayote squash - The chayote fruit is used in both raw and cooked forms. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash. Raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas and is often marinated with lemon juice.

I have been back from my Guatemalan mission trip for two months.

During the trip I vowed to remember how fortunate I am to live in a modern, prosperous country, but as time passes, I am afraid I have settled into the daily habits of most of my fellow Americans.

I know I have so many blessings and most of them I simply take for granted.

In Guatemala the gift we brought was clean water, and they seemed truly excited for that because they knew it would improve the health of their children and their whole community.

I must admit that if someone had asked me in the past what I had to be thankful for, I would not have thought even once about water.

My mission trip to Guatemala in October was with Living Water International and our purpose was to drill a water well. We accomplished this in four days.

The drilling was the easy part; the "being there" among a people so generous with the few resources they have was the difficult portion of my trip.

The villagers who did not have work in the crop fields came to our work site daily to see if they could assist in any way. They seemed to have a genuine desire to help us.

Of course, they knew we were there to help them and expected no pay for our efforts.

They carried water from their hand-dug wells to our site so we could mix drilling mud. This required hundreds of gallons and they transported it using jugs balanced on the tops of their heads.

They offered us chairs to sit in while we were resting between tasks and they set up a tarp for shade to protect our fair skin from the sun.

The women of the village provided lunch for us each day. When I asked in broken Spanish if I could see a typical kitchen, they came in mass to take me to a home where some women were making soup in a large iron caldron over an open wood-burning fire.

The boiling concoction contained chicken, onions, garlic, carrots, chayote squash and various spices. It smelled heavenly.

A brightly-dressed woman was stirring it with a large wooden paddle. This was to be our lunch for that day and it tasted every bit as good as it smelled.

Not long after we returned to Texas, the holidays were upon us. I struggled through our traditional American Christmas of over-eating and exuberant gift giving, but thought frequently about the people in Guatemala.

Those children have few store-bought toys but make their own from sticks and straw, which lay discarded by the road side.

I was there in October and the rainy season had ended, so the villagers were celebrating with a day of flying kites. Most of the children had made them from sticks covered with black trash bags. Surprisingly, they were able to get them to fly, but not very high or very long.

Their giggles and the satisfaction on their faces showed me that these home-made kites worked perfectly fine for their celebration.

Last week, I invited a group of friends over and made a pot of caldo de pollo (chicken soup) with chayote squash just like we had in Guatemala.

In the village, the women had grown the corn, dried it and pulverized it into cornmeal for the tortillas they served us each day.

I just dropped by the grocery store and picked up a couple of packages to serve with my soup.

My friend, Janet, made a video of our trip and so I hoped my friends would enjoy seeing how people in another place far away live and thrive. My purpose was simply to share our experience, hoping that some of the folks would want to join me in the future on another trip to bring clean water to these worthy and delightful people.

About a week before our dinner, I got a call from the headquarters for Living Water telling me of a guy who grew up in Victoria who is a seasoned driller and has attended about 10 trips with the organization.

Todd Elder now helps others to learn how to operate the equipment that drills these wells.

He came to share some of his experiences, and I found myself getting excited about taking another trip to Central or South America.

The world is really a small place when you think about it. All of us are connected to one another in some way and the people we touch are only limited by the boundaries we put on ourselves, whether it is our neighbor next door or those in faraway lands. There can be great joy for those who receive, but an even more lasting satisfaction for those who give.

Janet and I are planning a trip in a year and hope to bring a team of our friends from Victoria with us.

As with any organization, Living Water needs financial resources and people to help.

On my first trip, I brought home a lot more than a new recipe for caldo; I came away with a new appreciation for having clean water to drink and a love for a people who I never knew even existed.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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