September 25, 2011 1:35:00 AM
Last Sunday morning I called some friends to invite myself over for Sunday dinner. More often than not, every third Sunday or so their dinner table is covered with garden-fresh vegetables, fried pork chops, chicken or meatloaf and to-die-for desserts. I'm blessed to have friends that don't mind my barging in (I think?).
Unfortunately for me, they had other plans. Their church was having its "Homecoming." I'm not sure church homecomings are unique to us Southerners, although something tells me even if they're not, they were invented here.
For those of you who don't know what a homecoming is, it's a Sunday set aside every year when families and extended families who have roots in a church "come home," visit the cemetery, brag on their grandchildren, share old memories, find out who left who for who and eat, I mean eat.
My friends graciously extended an invitation for me to join them for lunch at their church. I was assured that they'd have plenty. I knew firsthand that was an understatement, having attended many of these gatherings. I declined: There was another homecoming on my radar.
Several weeks ago I received an invitation to the Forest Grove Presbyterian Church celebration in Ofahoma, Mississippi, the Church my dad's family attended.
At 61, I hold title to Patriarch, oldest living great grandson of William Columbus Truesdale. As Patriarch, I see it as my duty to make every effort to attend. Every year I look forward to reconnecting with family and friends -- not to mention, fried chicken and potato salad.
Mississippi musician and songwriter Jimmy Phillips wrote one of my favorite songs, "Fried Chicken." A couple of lines: "It's a Southern institution, black skillet is preferred, fried chicken, it's a most delightful bird." So true.
As expected in this modern age, the Colonel's chicken will find its way onto the serving table. The Colonel's variety is easy to spot, no matter how hard one taking the easy way might try to disguise it. Fortunately, I can count on three or four platters piled high with straight-from-the-kitchen fried chicken. Close by will be no less than six huge bowls of potato salad.
What fascinates me is how each mound of fried chicken will differ in texture, color and size. The same holds true for potato salad. There'll be the pale, more mayonnaise-y variety, others with a hint of mustard for a yellow hue, sweet pickles coarsely chopped vs. relish, and eggs vs. no eggs.
If I were a photographer, I'd spend a year going from homecoming to homecoming, photographing and chronicling every variety of fried chicken and potato salad. It would make a good coffee table book for sure.
Wouldn't it be interesting to know the stories behind how each person came up with their special way of blending just the right amount of ingredients for their perfect potato salad? But, even more interesting -- the other stories and lessons learned, tugging on the apron strings of their teachers?
What's the matter with me? I need a fried chicken leg and big helping of potato salad like I need a hole in my head.
Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.