Local Girl Cooks Southern Fried Chicken
The seasons are changing and it's that time of year when we start planning to gather with family and friends for the holidays. Growing up, this was primarily done around delicious homemade meals prepared with love. Three months ago, I found myself wanting to do something new and unfamiliar to me. At the time my son was 4 months old and began taking a stronger interest in foods that I was eating. This launched a desire for me to start cooking again. And not just foods that could be prepared in 10 minutes or less to satisfy a bachelorette’s palette but something that my son could remember sharing with me. For example, each time I dice a white onion and sauté it in the pan the smells and sensations remind me of when my grandma would cook a hot breakfast for me before school. The aroma that filled her kitchen when she would bake an apple cake or zucchini bread from scratch made me feel comforted and at home. Those are the memories I want to create for my son. As I began to research recipes and prepare entrees that required a little more time, I'd place different spices like curry or garlic under his nose so he could experience something new. Weeks would pass and I concluded that random recipes off the internet were not what my heart or belly desired. In an effort to spend more time with my loved ones, I decided to reach out to my cousins and close friends to see if they would share with me and my son what their favorite meal is to cook and reminisce on why it is so special.
My cousin Sheryl was one of the first people I shared my crazy idea with. With excitement and genuine love of family, she invited me and my son to her new home to enjoy a meal she prepared for us as well as her son Kavika, daughter Lauryn and her daughter-in-law Makenzi who are both active duty service women in the United States Army. On the menu this evening was fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, potatoes with some bacon, homemade honey butter, sweet potato casserole and banana pudding. Not low calorie at all but everything smelled delectable. Part of me wished I had recorded video of our gathering and had the capability to enact smell-o-vision. (How come that isn’t a thing yet?) Sheryl was quick to note “that's the nature of comfort food, right? That's what my daughter wanted when she came home.” There was so much love in the meal (as well as equal parts butter). I asked my cousin if this was her typical “Aloha Friday” kind of meal and she said it falls more along the lines of a Sunday dinner.
“I don't cook to this extent for the two of us [herself and Kavika]. But if people come over I'll cook a lot of food.”
Sheryl attributes her love of cooking and feeding people to being raised in Hawaii. Though she isn’t Hawaiian by blood, she was born and raised in the islands. The aloha flows through her genuinely. Having grown up in Hawaii, food is a big middle ground. The story behind tonight’s dinner goes back to 1998, while she and her then husband were stationed on Oahu. Her next-door neighbor was from South Carolina and taught her how to make green beans, potatoes, proper baked macaroni & cheese, and cornbread with a twist. The fried chicken we were about to chow down on consisted of drums and flats. While I typically go for the thighs or legs, I happily welcomed the smaller pieces. Sheryl’s reasoning made perfect sense too, “they cook faster”. It is safe to say that not all hot sauce is created equally. Some are suitable for tacos while others taste better over scrambled eggs. In this case, low-grade Crystal brand hot sauce was within reach for those who desired to add some spice with a bit of a sour kick from the vinegar. The honey used for the honey butter on our cornbread was purchased at a local farmer’s market in West Sacramento at the Barn, #FarmToFork. Would you believe that I’ve never had sweet potato casserole before?
Stories were shared of past Halloween celebrations with toddlers, ex-loves, breakfast buddies, new homes, cultural awareness, InstaPots, food truck ventures, Hawaii and food stamps. When the topic of meal preparation came about, my cousin had a strong opinion.
“To me, I don’t wanna make food fresh and put it in the fridge only to heat it up again. I don’t think food tastes good like that as opposed to eating right away. My biggest problem is when I cook, I dunno how to cook small. Like this is as small as I can cook. I never know how to gauge how much I need. But it’s hard because I don’t measure anything. That’s why you just gotta put it with the picture. Cooking to taste. I cook by color. I season stuff until it is the right color it’s supposed to be. There are all these kind of subscription boxes like Blue Apron. But nobody cooks by sense anymore. Does this smell right, does this taste right? The colors. If you push down on a steak is it medium rare?”
As everyone lounged around the living room chowing down on dinner, I asked Lauryn why this particular dinner meant so much to her.
Simply put, “it’s always been a favorite”.
Glancing to my right, I made a joke to Sheryl that I invited myself over for dinner. Without missing a beat, she replied, “It's not even a thing when you're a local family. When you're from Hawaii, if you're a local family, there is no such thing as being invited. You just go. You just show up. You're cooking? I'm there. You're cooking? I'm coming over. I don't think that's how it is for other types of families.”
I’ve missed this kind of environment so much. I was gonna try to be bougie and pair the fried chicken dinner with a crisp white wine but it was unnecessary. Although my hips and cholesterol didn’t need to experience this kind of consumption, my soul was extremely content. Mahalo cousin for the finger-licking good meal.