Osie Fried Chicken the Old South Way
Nobody keeps pan drippings on the back of the stove anymore
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green peas. My happy meal then and now. I could smell it cooking as soon as I opened the screen door, walked through the service porch and stepped up into the house. Osie was frying chicken! My mouth was in for a treat.
Osie loved me, and I loved her. She practically raised me, after all. It’s her big brown arms I remember around me whenever I came in from school. It’s her sweet face I see in my dreams whenever I pray for relief from a pounding world. And it’s her fried chicken I remember.
She did it the right way. A freshly bought, fat fryer from the Piggly Wiggly got things going early in the day. Osie pulled out errant pin feathers and cut it up the bird in proper pieces. Not such an easy trick.
Next, it was time for a buttermilk bath. I mean she sank every thigh, breast, drumbstick, and wing deep into fresh buttermilk and let it sit on the cabinet for hours. Bacteria must not grow in the Fried Chicken South, because our digestive systems never complained. And she didn’t forget the liver and kidneys. Granny (Nanny) liked those the best, along with the neck.
Then, she goes about her business. Hangs the sheets out on the line in the horse lot, feeds our dogs last night’s table scraps. Shares with visiting dogs if there’s enough. Bandages any neighborhood kid’s knee who just did a face plant off his roller skates on our driveway. Gets his skate key and helps him tighten them good and snug.
Then, I get to play I Spy with her while she sets the table.
Eleven thirty and it’s time to start cooking. Solid Crisco is melting in a cast iron skillet over a low gas flame on the stove. Chunks of peeled potatoes are boiling in salted water in the Revere Ware pan. Birds Eye frozen peas are waiting their turn at vat.
Now, for the food of the gods. Fried chicken
With silver tongs, Osie plucks a fat thigh out of the buttermilk and pats it into the shallow dish of heavily salted and peppered flour. She coats it good, turning it over and over, until the chicken and her fingertips are covered. By this time the deep grease is quivering. The first piece goes in, and then the second, third and fourth. She’s a master at going from buttermilk to flour to skillet without losing any of the goo.
Oh, that smell! The chicken’s browning. The grease is popping. She’s watching, turning, holding it up to let it drip. Onto a draining rack it goes with crunchy crust sticking up just waiting to be pinched off when no one’s looking. Her masterpiece, once again, is perfect.
Side dishes and side glaces back
Her mashed potatoes always had a whole stick of butter mixed in. Her peas were bright green and plump. Oh, and there were homemade biscuits from the oven, and cream gravy made with fried chicken crust drippings from the pan. What would lunch be without those?
This was in my skinny years. Those elementary school days when I was taller than the boys and some of my teachers, and I was sure I looked like Ichabod Crane, that broomstick of a horseman my fourth grade teacher so unkindly told us about.
After lunch, we were too full to go out and play so we lolled around in the den playing games. Kids shows didn’t come on after lunch. Soap operas did.
The dogs were out of luck. There was nothing left but the pan drippings and Osie saved those in a can on the back of the stove. I’m not sure what she did with them, but I know we kept them. Those were years when nothing went to waste.
These years I miss Osie. I miss my own ignorance of world problems. I miss being too skinny for my clothes. And I miss Osie Fried Chicken. I try to make it. Emulate her every step. But a student doesn’t surpass her master. And a student I remain.
Sweet Osie May Mosely an angel who was right here on earth.