Sunday, January 4, 2015

With a Side of Grace

I recently heard the term gospel bird and was instantly taken to another time with the memories those two words conjured up.
Fried chicken and Sunday dinner.
Being from the South, I heard supper and dinner used interchangeably for the noon day meal. In fact, I've heard arguments over which is correct! Growing up, Mother referred to mealtimes as breakfast, lunch and dinner...except on the Lord's Day and that was always dinner. Didn't matter if we ate after church or in the evening, it was always Sunday dinner...period!
A special meal, made even more special by what was served. Pot roast, cooked all morning, so tender a fork was all that was needed for digging in. Coconut cream pie with meringue high as the sky and lightly browned. Freshly snapped string beans, floating in a rich pot liquor, spiked with bacon drippings.  New potatoes awash in peppered cream gravy. And cake...lovely, decadent cake.  Sometimes a Hershey bar chocolate drizzled with ganache and sometimes a rich pound cake, but always made from scratch...never from a box. It's a wonder I didn't weigh two hundred and plenty by the time I was a teen. Second helpings weren't only expected, but encouraged!
You would have thought my mother and grandmother were feeding Coxey's army the amount of food they fixed, but they knew there would always be at the very least, one extra pair of shoes under their table when the dinner bell was rung. Sometimes the preacher and his family, sometimes a friend brought home from church, but always enough for everyone.  No one ever left that dinner table hungry...not if those two had anything to say about it!
Chicken and dumplings, chicken and dressing, all hard to beat, but my most favorite Sunday dinner had to be when my grandmother fried chicken. To this day, I've yet to meet the or woman...who could fry up a chicken like my grandmother. She always cut up her fresh fryer and used a perfectly seasoned iron skillet to fry it up in. Slowly and painstakingly, she let it turn brown before turning, but only after it was the right shade of brown would she lower the flame and cover it with a heavy, vented lid.  How she got that bird so perfect is a mystery to us all. Never burnt, all the beautiful, perfectly browned, crispy crust in place, tender, moist, but never greasy. The special piece, the pulley bone?  That she set aside for Mother, her only child and no one dared reach for it. Only after Mother was licking her fingers, were we given it to pull apart and make a wish.

What I would give for that bone. I promise y'all up and down, my one wish would to be sitting at the table with all of them just once more.

Nothing was wasted including the drippings. Law, armed with a can of Pet Milk, she turned those little flakes of fried goodness into another brown masterpiece.  Brown gravy, liquid gold, call it what you want. All I knew was as she slowly stirred until the gravy took on a glossy sheen, the waiting seemed like eternity.  Just waiting for my turn to take a hold of that big old serving spoon and start ladling it over fluffy, buttery, creamed potatoes whipped together with guessed it...Pet Milk seemed like forever. It was an art and sadly, a secret recipe she took with her to the better world a'waiting.
Gospel bird?
Marie's fried chicken was a religious experience commencing with prayers of thankfulness, a chorus of hallelujahs and ending with heartfelt amens.

I feel certain she arrived at Heaven's gate with the perfume of fried chicken clinging to her like a robe of silk. And if God, in His infinite wisdom, sees fit to have it on the menu for Sunday Dinner?

For me, that will be heaven indeed.

~Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never grow hungry and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.~John 6:35


vintage girl at heart said...

Mouth watering at your memories so wonderfully written that I felt like I was that extry pair of shoes at that table! Blessings...

Marsha @ Tattered Chick said...

Oh, man, I am hungry! How I wish I could have experienced such a wonderful dinner spent with you and your loving family! Happy New Year, Deb!!!


Cheryl said...

What fabulous family memories you have! I, too, remember those Sunday dinners with my family and I miss them also! Things have changed around here but the memories linger on. Thanks for your inspiration.

Mrs. Kelley Dibble said...

No trash in that talk! Memories like these are sacred, precious treasure. To think of all the sweet little ones in this world who possess no Mother-memories such as ours... We are indeed blessed.

Hugs and happy Sunday from Guam where Monday began,

chubmoma said...

You are describing Sunday dinners, my grandma and mom when I was a child! My mom also had the wonderful talent of frying chicken. Somehow, I missed getting that gene. But boy howdy, my son can fry up some chicken just like they did! Poor kid was deprived by his mom not knowing how to fry chicken so he learned to do it himself. Also loved those homemade chicken and noodles that were served every Sunday. I never mastered those either. Thanks for the memories!

holli said...

Dang, we could have been related from reading this post. My family was so similar especially the Sunday dinners! The brown gravy from the fried chicken bits makes my mouth water. I remember my moms old electric skillet that she used to fry up the chicken. Oh my!