Peggy’s Fried Chicken

My husband comes from a LARGE family. When I say large, we’re talking 11 kids (8 girls and 3 boys).  They are all wonderful individuals and I couldn’t be more fortunate to call them family.

Both parents have long since passed away, but they handed down many wonderful memories, traditions and gifts.  Lucky for me, my husband received the gift of making a great batch of fried chicken.  His mom, Peggy,  on the occasional Sunday would spend hours in the kitchen preparing a fried chicken dinner for the family.  A tradition which  in later years would prove to be one rich in memories.

Michael will tell you he learned to make her fried chicken through osmosis.  Peggy never really gave him any instructions.  Piece by piece and batch by batch he would simply watch as she cooked.  I’m sure she came by it the same way, too, spending time watching her mother (a Kentucky Southerner they fondly called Mimi) as she carefully prepared and simmered the chicken.  The tradition (so I am told) always included lima beans, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes and a batch of Mimi’s special biscuits and fresh chocolate pie.

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Cooking fried chicken is a true labor of love especially for such a large family.  Although it’s a simple process with simple tools (a cast iron skillet, tongs and a brown paper bag) and  simple ingredients (chicken, Crisco shortening, flour, salt and pepper) it requires time and patience……..a LOT of patience.  The perfect batch of fried chicken hinges on two (2) things:  1) chicken, evenly coated by using the brown paper bag  and 2) a perfectly heated cast iron skillet.  Batch after batch and for hours on end it has to be cooked at a low heat and very slow pace, only turning each piece once it reaches a golden brown color.

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Being the one dish I relinquished to Michael (a story for another day) many years ago, he really has mastered the process.  So much so, it’s not unusual for friends to frequently request a “fried chicken night.”  And yes, in keeping with Peggy’s tradition, all of the sides are prepared as well!

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When family comes into town you can bet they will ask Michael to make a batch of fried chicken.  What will start as a small family gathering can easily turn into a major event once the word gets out that fried chicken is on the menu!

As the family begins to gather and Michael begins the process, it doesn’t take long for our kitchen to be filled with laughter and chatter as they each reminisce about family memories and the childhood reminders of Peggy’s fried chicken simmering in the pan.

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Giving Thanks Over The Desert Rose

The following is a post from Thanksgiving 2016.  As the Holiday Marathon begins, it’s a great reminder that Thanksgiving is more than the food on the table or the anticipation of the “black Friday sales.”  It’s about taking the time to pause and being grateful.  It’s about putting differences aside and remembering the importance of family, creating memories and showing your appreciation for  your loved ones near and far.

My heart is full……..  

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.”  Psalm 136:1 NIV

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I have many fond memories of my childhood.  And, like most everyone else some are good and some are not so good.  But, one of my favorite memories (which my sisters would also agree) is not of one particular event, but rather of multiple events centered around our mother’s dishes. These were the dishes that brought us together as a family every day at dinner time; these were the dishes where we chatted about the events of the day; these were the dishes that remind us of home, family and of her.

“Desert Rose by Franciscan” was the name of the pattern. With four (4) pink and white embossed flowers circling each plate, they were connected by their leaves and stems eloquently forming scalloped edges.  The dish set came with everything you can imagine….there were dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates, cups and saucers and the list goes on.   There were even salt and pepper shakers in the shape of unopened blooms.

We don’t know what happened to her dish set.  It’s almost as if when she passed away the dishes disappeared as well.

But, something strange and wonderful happened this year……..The dishes found their way back into our family.  Well, not exactly the dishes, but a set just like them.  As my husband and I were wandering through Tuesday Morning, I stumbled upon a knock-off set, took a picture and sent it to my sister.  Within about 10 minutes she sent me a photo from an e-bay email link she had just received of an authentic set of the dishes.  After about 20 minutes of texting back and forth with our other sister, we realized that it was the 40th anniversary of her passing. Perhaps our mother was speaking to us through the dishes?

Fast forward to Thanksgiving……Dad’s favorite holiday a time of the year he especially enjoys having the family together.  Our typical get togethers are “buffet style, sit where you can find a seat kind of meals” leaving everyone scattered throughout different rooms.  And so, this year my sisters and I decided to make Thanksgiving extra special by transforming the living room into a dining room in order to seat everyone at one table.  Not a small feat to do, but we did it (thanks to the help of my husband)……..everyone had a seat at the table.  And, at every place setting was “Desert Rose.”

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With Dad seated at the head of the table and his grandchildren and great grandchildren intently listening to his every word, he proudly told the story of how the dishes came back into our lives.  And then, just like the original dishes, they became the dishes we said grace over; they became the dishes we chatted over and caught up with each other about all that is happening in our lives; they became the dishes that now meant family, home and reminded us of our mother and  “Giving Thanks over the Desert Rose.”