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May is for Memorials and Mothers and many other celebrations…and along with these things come picnics. When I was a child there never was a picnic without fried chicken. In fact, I can recount my life stages in fried chicken. My first memory of fried chicken is my grandmother’s pressure cooked version with 10 or 13 or so herbs and spices before the Colonel’s existed… I associate this moist, room temperature crunchy chicken with church picnics and roller coasters…I was so little I could have easily flown out of the roller coaster car, but grandmomma would not be deterred…she kept a tight hold on me as I lifted out of the seat and her wig flew off and we had to shut the ride down so it could be retrieved from the guts of the all wooden contraption. This was at Buckroe Beach – Virginia’s answer to Coney Island NY. This amusement park only exists in memory now. Thank you grandmomma for introducing me to roller coasters! Gordon believes he may be a tad too stiff to continue these days…I’ll just have to go without him. (pleeeeeeeease, honey?)
Then came Daddy’s fried chicken – cast iron (and sometimes aluminum – oh, no!!) frying pans, salt and pepper only – this is the skin we used to fight over when mom held hers up for raffle. Every other chicken since has had a bar so high few have come close.
When I moved to Cincinnati for college, fried chicken was the least of my concerns and I don’t remember eating any at all until one day, my then boyfriend (a westsider) introduced me to the Cincinnati Reds. Opening day tickets in the nosebleed section. We were very young; this was fun! Back in “the day” (you know, when Buckroe Beach was still open) – one could haul in just about anything to a stadium. The family picked me up in their old jalopy and let me tell you the smell in that car was overwhelming – I became VERY hungry for the bucket (and it was a BIG bucket) of Ron’s Roost Fried Chicken that I was not allowed to touch until our noses began bleeding. This chicken came so close to Daddy’s it almost made me cry. Not being a westsider, this chicken was very elusive to me, but over the years I’ve managed to find an excuse or two to visit and always suggest Ron’s as a meeting place for friends, where the cooked to death green beans and the suspiciously “real” mashed potatoes create a perfect plate for me.
THEN there was the Charleston, SC visit to see my best friend Chris around 1992. We arrived while he was still at work but he said he could meet us at the Radisson close to him – said they served a good lunch. Good? I figured, I’m in South Carolina – I should order fried chicken!! So I did…and yet again another crying jag. The plate came out so hot and crispy, I tore into a thigh (my favorite) and the juices and grease exploded in my mouth and nirvana encompassed me…the memory of this one time fried chicken lunch has never left me – I wanted to go back the next day but Chris wouldn’t allow it. He thought I was ridiculous.
Then came Walt’s. If you’ve never been to Walt’s Hitching Post in Ft. Wright KY, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Their cast iron fried chicken (along with the Greyhound Tavern’s deep fried ) are the two that come closest to a perfect marriage of my grandmomma’s and my father’s fried chicken. They also make a steak that rivals any fancy steakhouse at a more reasonable price. Oh, and The Eagle in OTR does a great job with southern fried chicken too!
If you’re just not in the mood to go out and you have a Remke’s Market near you, this is our go-to for “I’m too lazy let’s get chicken”. Yes, Lula eats take-out chicken, but only if it’s worth it. In fact, on my most recent visit to see daddy, I found out he had discovered a place so good he doesn’t make fried chicken at home any more. This fried chicken comes from the gas station down the street from Columbia Sailing Club (and it tastes ALOT like daddy’s). If you didn’t know it already, gas station fried chicken is developing a cult following in the US these days, and I haven’t tasted it yet, but I’m told there is WONDERFUL gas station fried chicken in and around Cincinnati, called Krispy Krunchy.
Yup, sitting on the clubhouse veranda, eating gas station fried chicken, strawberry-pepita and potato salads and fudge brownies with walnuts, drinking in a sun with no clouds and a perfect 70 degrees with winds at about 7 knots (notice I take on the vernacular of a sailor – when in Rome…), I sigh deeply and contentedly with family surrounding me, and reach for another piece. Of chicken – not brownie.
If you struggle with fried chicken and need a tip or two, I can give you my recipe if you email me at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering .
A Note From Chef Lori
Lula’s was just chosen by The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s ORV Region as 2018 Supplier of the Year!!! We are thrilled to be recognized and honored by this wonderful organization!
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