Memories of Mom's Southern Fried Chicken

... Mom's Southern Fried Chicken dinner.

by Louise Fennell

When I was young, my favorite meal was southern fried chicken with all the fixin's[sic] made the way my Texas grandmother did it when my dad was a boy. I never knew her but my dad taught my mom how to make this, his favorite Sunday dinner.

First, he would go out to the chicken pen in our backyard and choose the sacrificial chicken. Then he would carry it over to a stump and chop off its head. My brother and I would watch from the kitchen window as it ran around the yard like the Headless Horseman in Washington Irving's tale. Is this where the expression "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off originated?" Not from my dad, but from  similar action by many others at the time.

Then, when the chicken settled down, my mom would dunk it in cold water for a bit followed by the arduous task of plucking off all the feathers. If you ask me, she got the worst of the deal.

After that, my brother, John,would take over and cut the poor bedraggled looking carcass into suitable pieces for frying. Thus, the expression "like a plucked chicken" (We were reminiscing about this a few weeks ago, when he and his wife, Alyce, were visiting from New Mexico and he said no one knows how to cut a chicken anymore. He's probably right, but who cares.)

Next, my mom would put Crisco in the frying pan (which I inherited and still use). While that was heating she would dip the chicken pieces in an egg and milk mixture, roll them in flour and drop them in the hot oil. I can still remember the way the kitchen smelled. When the chicken was sufficiently fried, which she knew by some instinct that I did not inherit, she would take it out of the fat and place it on a platter and proceed to add flour and water to the drippings until it turned into a caramel brown color. Then she would put the chicken back in the frying pan and put a cover on top and let it simmer until just right. Again, by some magic sense known to women of her generation.

While that was going on she would peel mounds of sweet potatoes and put them in a big pan to boil. She then whipped them with butter and milk. And, lastly, came kernels of golden corn picked fresh from the garden, scraped from the husk with a sharp knife and placed in a black cast iron skillet with melted butter and sugar and fried until the color of sunlight. And since my dad was a true Texan we, also, had home-made biscuits.

When I'm feeling nostalgic, I go to the store and buy a package of Tyson's frozen chicken pieces, a jar of chicken gravy, a package of instant mashed potatoes, a can of Green Giant kernel corn and some Pillsbury Grande Biscuits and have myself a feast. Doesn't quite come up to Mom's though.

June 7, 2013

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