AN IMPROMPTU PICNIC
(from Picnics I Remember by Jo Ann Orr Miller)
Picnics with Mother’s family were usually by Murvaul Creek, near a pond out in a pasture, at the Angelina River, or by the bay or beach at Galveston. Mother, Nannan (my grandmother), and Aunt Nellye loved to fish. Occasionally we fried the little crappie or sun perch that we caught served up with a big helping of DO NOT SWALLOW A BONE. However, we usually released the fish to allow them grow. Nannan always had her outdoor cooker in the car along with a cast iron skillet and a knife; so, we could eat the catch fresh from the water.
We were coming back from visiting Aunt Nellye in Houston, and Nannan decided that we’d stop at the roadside park at the river and have fried chicken. (Eating at a café was not much of an option in the late ‘30s and early 40s’.) She bought a fryer and some Mrs. Tucker’s lard in Lufkin. We had everything we needed along with a growing appetite—except some flour. Always equal to any occasion she stopped at a farmhouse on US HWY 59, knocked on the door, and came back with a cup of flour!
I don’t remember what else we had to eat. I just remember vividly the “neighbor” we didn’t know who enabled us to have our picnic “down by the riverside.”
NANNAN’S FRIED CHICKEN
1 FREE RANGE FRYER
ENOUGH WATER TO COVER CHICKEN PIECES AND A HANDFUL OF COARSE SALT
COARSE SALT, FOR SEASONING
LARD FOR FRYING
Catch chicken. Wring neck. Put under a bucket until it stops flopping around.
Dip in scalding water. Pluck feathers. Hold over A flame to “swinge” it (a word Nannan coined for “singe to remove hairs”).
Cut open abdomen and remove all inner parts. Be very careful in getting the liver for the bile duct is very close to it. The bile is bitter. Cut open gizzard and remove the lining along with the small rocks inside. (This is the place the chicken “chews” its food.)
Cut into desired pieces. Be sure you have a pulley bone*. Place in salted water to allow it to absorb the salt.
Heat enough lard to half-cover the chicken. Pepper chicken, dip in flour. Fry until golden brown on one side. Turn and fry until golden brown on other side and until juices run clear.**
Drain grease leaving enough for some gravy—about 4 tablespoon—add 4 tablespoons making a light roux. Be sure to scrape crusty pieces from the bottom of the skillet. Slowly add water until gravy is the desired thickness . Salt and pepper to taste. If you have a lot of company, make a lot of gravy.
Enjoy with some buttermilk biscuits.
*Known in some circles as the wishbone.
**According to the Health Department, chicken should be cooked to 165°F.