Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Southern Fried

My grandmother was from Mississippi and her fried chicken was legendary. Whenever we visited her, she would make it for us to have on the three hour car ride back home. Once, she ran out of time and sent my grandfather to KFC to buy the chicken. Family tradition has it that the four-year-old me knew something was amiss from the first bite. "This is not Grandma's chicken!" I reportedly exclaimed.

I don't have any memory of the incident, but I always thought of it as a testimony to remarkable chicken rather than a remarkable palette. My grandmother died 39 years ago, long before I started cooking, and her chicken recipe was lost to me for about twenty years, until I had the occasion to ask her youngest sister about it on one of her rare trips up north. She told me how she made hers, and how their mother made hers, and that she reckoned my grandmother's recipe was somewhere close to in between.

It was almost another 19 years until I put her method to the test. Skillet frying a chicken just always seemed like a lot of trouble. But on this family vacation to South Carolina, we planned to celebrate my brother's birthday, and making fried chicken the way my grandma did seemed like a perfect menu choice.

My original idea was to use a deep fryer, but I left the cord at home, and so I was forced to fry it on the stove, just as she did. Honestly? I'm glad I did, because it turned out really well, and it wasn't the hassle I always thought it would be. In fact, I may not wait another 19 years to try it again.

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