Saturday, June 21, 2008

Real Life Reality: Grandma & the Chicken

On a recent visit back east to visit relatives I decided to pass the time en-route by jotting down a few memories from growing up. One that came to mind was this story:

One of our family's all-time favorite foods was -and still is- fried chicken. A tasty dish typical of the South, it wasn't necessarily good for you with all the grease, skin and seasoning ingredients that went into the preparation. And, for that matter, it wasn't very good for the chickens either!

But, just look at the success that Kentucky Fried Chicken [KFC] and other companies have had to see how universally popular fried chicken is to this day.

Talking with my sister the other day, I was reminded that fried chicken is also something that gets taken for granted by most folks, without the understanding of what it actually takes to prepare it.

As it turned out, my little sister was turned off by the very idea of fried chicken for quite a while, as the result of one particular visit to Grandmother Watts' house down on the farm in Piedmont North Carolina. To this day, Mary recalls with horror, what happened after she was asked what seems to be an innocuous question; 'which of these chickens looks the fattest'?

When she pointed to one plump hen, Grandma grabbed it, quickly wrung its neck, then chopped off its head! Only then, in reflex, did the doomed chicken escape her grasp and proceed to literally 'run around like a chicken with its head cut off'!

My sister was further horrified when Grandma finally caught the headless chicken and hung it by the feet on a clothesline for it to finish bleeding out! Then, if that weren't enough, plunged that poor headless chicken into a a big iron pot of boiling water! Ooh, ouch!

Later, we found out that step was needed to help remove the feathers, plus maybe kill a few germs, before cutting the carcass into parts for cooking. Hardly anything was wasted, including certain entrails such as the liver, heart and gizzard which tasted so good fried that we competed for them.

But what an education that episode provided! Things were OK as long as we weren't aware of the grisly mayhem required. Welcome to reality, children!

To this day, my sister remembers this traumatic story, which continues to minimize her enjoyment -and therefore her consumption- of fried chicken.