The wishbone in this context is the fork-shaped bone between the breast and neck of a bird and, to bring the subject a lot closer to home, that bird is a chicken.
Whenever a chicken is cooked and carved by a careful chef, you will be sure to find this bone very intact. You stand a better chance at finding this bone mostly when the chicken is cooked whole.
Roast chicken gives out the perfect wishbone because in its cooked state, the meat is so soft it just falls off the bone.
Although this superstition is very commonly known as an American thing, my research has led me to discover that the people who are guilty of bringing it into the modern world are the Romans. According to their history, the importance of the wish bone traces back to the days when they started eating fowl-like chicken and guinea fowl.
In those days, cocks and hens were apparently seen as oracles. In present day Tuscany and parts of Umbria in Italy was also a tribe called the Etruscans and the same history has it that these are really the people who the Romans adopted the superstition from and later on took it with them into the western world. The Etruscan way was to kill a bird, remove the bone, lay it in the sun to dry and then stroke it while making a wish which is where the name “wishbone” came into being.
Today, cultures across the world, including here at home, are very familiar with and have very much adopted the superstition. The ritual has evolved so much, if we consider its origins.
It has gone from killing the bird and removing the wishbone and drying it in the sun straight away to cooking the bird and being lucky to find the bone intact after carving.
While in the past it was just stroked at the hope of being granted a wish, today this bone is actually held by two people and broken by pulling the two long protruding bones apart. What is even more interesting is that the superstition has further evolved to the wish being granted the person that ends with the most part of the bone after pulling.
I have personally experienced the wishbone ritual from a very young age. However, I could and will never reveal to anybody whether or not my wish ever came true. I always imagine it to be like somebody getting into the detail of a movie before you get the chance to watch it, which just ruins everything for me.
For that simple reason, I would really love for any interested person to just give the wishbone a go. What I am more than willing to share though is the thrilling experience that comes with pulling the bone. You find people staring each other in the eye each hoping to have the victory. What amazes me is how tiny the bone is in the first place to be held by two hands.
The minute the bone goes “snap!” the one person has this big grin on their face while the other one looks as though they’ve just received tragic news, or have they?
It does not just end there, especially if the two are closely related in any way.
Take for instance if the two are dating. The winner jumps with joy and the loser gets frustrated, firstly, by the fact that they have lost and, secondly, by the fact that they don’t know what their partner was wishing for, which normally kickstarts a very strange exchange of words.
The conversation normally goes something like: “What did you wish for?”, the loser would ask, and the winner would say, “I’m not supposed to tell you because then my wish will not come true”.
And it is the game that they play each time they eat a chicken. They actually look forward to eating their next chicken!
A few chickens later, there are all these unanswered questions going back and forth between them about wishes.
I really love food and the fact that there are superstitions, such as that of the wishbone, just puts the cherry on the cake for me. Something as simple as a chicken can turn meal time into a bonding session.
Typically, the wishes made when the bone is pulled are kept secret so the next person never knows whether the wish did come to pass or not. But I see nothing wrong with that because everyone’s chances of winning normally increase with every attempt.
In the end we all have our little secrets regarding whether or not the wishbone is just myth but, all in all, it is fair play.
Next time you cook a chicken, I hope you roast it and after that put that carving skill to the test.
And, mind you, the chicken wishbone is more delicate than that of a turkey, duck or guinea fowl, etcetera, it does not take much to break it.
Turn to the one you will be eating with and turn your chicken experience into a thrill.
Go ahead and make that wish.
The idea of making a wish is exciting anyway, and if it can be done while having a meal, all the more fun.
So, let us go wild and wish big on the wishbones!