The three youngest teens went to the Big Stuf camp at Panama City Beach with our church the first week of June. From the smiles and stories I would say they had a large time. Out of respect for their privacy and to protect the innocent I will refrain from sharing their stories here.
The day after they returned we all headed to Vacation Bible School. I taught 22 awesome fifth and sixth graders. Maddie helped with fourth grade, Anna helped with crafts, and Caleb helped with recreation. They each did a great job and we all thoroughly enjoyed the week. A young man in my class and two precious boys that live on our street accepted Christ. The week was exhilarating and exhausting. Many of you know exactly what I mean. I like to call it the VBS hangover.
My dad came for a visit Tuesday. When he arrived I asked if he had a good drive. He became tearful and said “no”. He tried to tell me why. “I stopped at Jack’s to get breakfast before getting on the interstate. One of the workers recognized me and she asked, ‘Where’s that sweet lady that’s always with you?’” He couldn’t finish his story. He didn’t have to. It dawned on me that he had not been back there since my mom died in December. Another “first” for him. We sat in silence for a moment letting reality sink in. Again.
We all needed to feel better. When I want to feel better or make others feel better I cook (and eat). I learned from my grandmother and mother that there’s not much that good food can’t soothe. I know it doesn’t actually fix anything beyond physical hunger but it can definitely soothe this tired and troubled body that houses my spirit.
Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
I have found that to be true.
My daddy loves simple food. By simple I mean food like he grew up eating. Food like my mother cooked. Food from the garden mostly. My freezer supply from last year’s garden was dwindling in anticipation of this year’s harvest. I chose what I knew he would love. (I made a delicious and homemade broccoli and cheese soup for him once and his first question: “What’s the green stuff in the soup?” He wasn’t a fan.)
This time I decided it would be fried okra, fried squash and fried chicken. Does anyone see a pattern? Yeah. Well, he’s 73 and he can still work circles around anyone I know. His cholesterol and blood pressure are perfect. Go figure.
I also decided to add stewed tomatoes over rice to the meal. We LOVE stewed tomatoes. I discovered that at Wade’s Restaurant in Spartanburg, South Carolina last year. I’ve been making them ever since. Dad’s comment about the stewed tomatoes: “They sorta jump out at you.” I have no idea what that means. He also thinks his cornbread is the best “this side of the river”. I beg to differ. We had store-bought rolls. Pick your battles.
But the fried chicken.
Oh, how he loved the fried chicken! Oh, how we all loved the fried chicken! The kids and I went swimming yesterday afternoon and all I could think about as I floated around in the pool was the leftover fried chicken in the fridge. It’s that good!
Now here’s the thing about fried chicken. I remember my mother making fried chicken and it just seemed like a lot of trouble. I’ve never made much of it for that reason until I found this recipe.
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce (just adds flavor, not heat)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 8 pieces of chicken (I buy a large bag of leg quarters and cut them into leg and thigh pieces. It’s more economical when you’re making a large batch)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- Oil for frying
Whisk together hot sauce and buttermilk in a shallow bowl. Place chicken pieces in mixture, turn to coat, and chill 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large deep skillet until sizzling hot (350 degrees). I use an electric skillet—temperature controlled and fries evenly.
Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, 1 piece at a time, shaking off excess. Dredge in flour and place in hot skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown. Place on a paper towel to drain.
Place fried chicken on a wire baking rack in a baking sheet, and bake 40-50 minutes. remove from oven. Delicious served hot or at room temperature. (or straight out of the fridge the next day:-)
Daddy said he believed it was the best fried chicken he’d ever eaten. We all felt better after eating a piece (or two).
I’ve reached my quota for typing “fried chicken”. I’ve tried to make it “fired chicken” and “friend chicken” about 12 times. I think I’ll just go see if there’s any left in the fridge.