Fried Chicken and Creative Spirits

Mom's Morning Glories
When I was growing up, one of the regular dinners on my mother's family menu was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Her chicken was simple to make, but delicious, and it was those nights in particular that I loved to help cook.

One of my jobs was to crush the Saltine crackers that would coat the chicken. I would use either a rolling pin or a meat tenderizing mallet to break the crackers into crumbs. I thought that was fun, but what I really loved was the dredging, egging and coating process. I remember finishing the chicken and giggling as I raised all ten monstrously breaded fingers. Look mom! Neat!

Since today is Mother's Day it's inevitable that my mind wanders back into the kitchen of my childhood. The memories that seem most poignant for me from any relationship are always tied to food.

I realize now how fortunate I was to have that nightly family dinner.

Of course, like any other family we had our share of arguments at the dinner table. With three kids spanning an eight year age difference, the topics for disagreements abounded. When I was very young, some of the most heated were over whether or not I was going to eat my vegetables. Oh, how I hated lima beans! Even if they were merely scattered in the mixed frozen vegetables. But, we had good discussions and fun times as well. And it was a focal point in the day, a chance for everyone to sit together and enjoy the food mom put time and energy into preparing for us, her family.

My mother was a creative spirit. It's my theory that some creative spirits create in order to share. And that this is more than just self expression; it is also an integral part of the way they love.

Food can be so pedestrian if it's not prepared and served with thought and care. One might look at a menu of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn and think how ordinary! But it was anything but ordinary.

I cooked fried chicken tonight for dinner, just like mom. Almost like mom. I used leftover gluten-free "bread" crumbs instead of Saltines as part of my spring-cleaning, pre-move cupboard-clearing effort.

I also added my own creative spirits by mixing up a ramp martini with the fruits of last week's pickling efforts. (Delicious!)

When I needed direction on baking time, I sent my brother K an email. He called me with solid instructions, "Bake the chicken at 350 until it looks good... check it in a half hour." My dad's suggestion would have been his standard "800 degrees for 10 minutes."

Half hour did the trick for the boneless thighs. I left the legs in for another six or seven minutes. And, when I took a bite of the crispy yet perfectly juicy chicken that I cooked myself in mom's style, I thought, isn't it wonderful that I knew her?

So, thanks, mom, for teaching me how to cook and so many other things... wherever in the universe you might be! And also, mom, I got a new tattoo. Just under the bee... a flower drawn from a photo you took of morning glories in your garden. It's that time of year again... and we miss you tons!


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