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COMMENTARY

Plain cake, fried chicken and cornbread

Posted on April 5, 2021

Local newsColumns

jmills.enterprise@wilsontimes.com | 252-478-3651

Jan Mills

Jan Mills

Have you ever had a memory when you said to yourself, “I wish I could turn back time”?

That happened to me the night of March 31 as I was watching “Mountain Men.” (Can you believe that I am absolutely hooked on that show?) I suddenly wanted a piece of Mama’s plain cake.

We called it that because she just made this delicious batter that was a one-layer cake, sweet and light and fluffy and never put a frosting on it — thus, plain cake. When that aroma would hit my nose any afternoon as I came into the house, it was like someone had just swung open the gate to heaven.

There was always a 10-ounce Pepsi in a bottle that had the manufacturing city on the back. Ever play the travel game on a Pepsi bottle? Another treat was fried cornbread left in the oven along with a baked sweet potato and, you know it, hog cracklings or skins (they are not the same thing). There is absolutely no way to duplicate any of that combined deliciousness.

I have one of those Lagasse air fryers that can do everything but wash the dishes, yet still, the best chicken is fried in that old cast iron pan my folks gave me in 1965. I have, however, learned to use vegetable oil rather than pure lard.

I still put self-rising flour in a large paper bag with salt and pepper, drop the chicken in and batter it before dropping it into the oil in the pan. I tried that plastic gallon bag thing but that’s not getting it done. I can cut a 2 ½ pound chicken into enough pieces to feed six folks, a method also taught to me by my dad.

My grandson, Sean, has requested fried chicken to celebrate his birthday on Saturday. So, chicken pickup Friday, cut up and soak in salt water until Saturday and crisp chicken will be the outcome that afternoon.

I always think of my mom when I cook chicken, and I wonder just how old that frying pan really is. I know it’s been in the family since at least the 1930s. We had fried chicken every Sunday after church and somehow, no matter who dropped in for dinner (we did not call it lunch) there was always enough chicken for everyone. Several generations have been well fed using that old pan.

First hummingbird of the year for my house showed up late Thursday. I’ve had my feeder out for a week or so in anticipation of their return and sure enough, he flew in and drank the homemade nectar for the longest time. Spring is really here!

Jan Mills is The Enterprise’s customer service representative. Reach her at 252-478-3651 and jmills.enterprise@wilsontimes.com.

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