Opinion: Feeding the family takes a flock of chicken

Another reunion of my mother’s family, the McKenzies, has come and gone without incident – at least, nothing that couldn’t be fixed with Alka-Seltzer or a Band-Aid.

The usual reunion activities were being exercised in full. Food was eaten. Memories were shared. Small children were clucked over. Larger children were told not to run in the shelter house. Automobiles were compared. People were teased about their ages and waistlines. Relatives who did not attend were talked about.

In short, a good time was had by all and refreshments were served, as they used to say in the hometown paper.

I like to think I made a case for traditionalism at this year’s reunion by bringing fried chicken that I actually A) fried, B) in my own kitchen. This is a bigger deal than you might think.

In the olden days, home-fried chicken was a family reunion staple, along with baked beans, potato salad and orange Kool-Aid. The chicken was always made by my mother and her sisters, who would each fry several birds (and I mean no fewer than five apiece) to make sure we were adequately chickened up. You have to remember that Mom is one of 13 brothers and sisters and I am one of 50 first cousins. Add to that the new arrivals, in-laws, second cousins and friends who showed up, and you can see how it took a big flock of chicken to feed a mob like that.

In recent years though, as the family has changed and with it, the menu. As Mom’s generation got older and mine assumed more of the food duties, fried chicken began to share main-course space with other offerings, things like meat loaf and corned beef. And then a few years ago someone who shall remain nameless because I don’t know who it is (like I said, it’s a big family; you can’t keep track of everyone) began bringing boxes of that fried chicken they sell at gas stations. Gas station fried chicken at a family reunion? It’s indecent. It’s sacrilege. It’s also greasy, salty and overcooked.

So this year I decided to do something about it. I decided to stand up for Fried Chicken Decency. In other words, I bought a big load of chicken and fried it and took it to the reunion. Not only that, I used a little lard in the grease so it would have some of that old-timey taste as well as a smidgen of old-timey arterial endangerment. I’m sentimental that way.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I walked in, carrying my chicken, as my grateful relatives swarmed about, singing my praises and thanking me for restoring something that had been sadly lost.

No, not really.

I just sort of set it there with the rest of the food (including the gas station chicken and a couple of other chicken dishes besides) and let people find it. If they liked it, great. Personally, I thought I got some of it a little burned and that it all needed salt, but my cousin Eldon made it a point to tell me how good he thought it was, so maybe it was okay chicken after all.

And if they didn’t like it … well, I could always tell them my brother fried it.

He was one of those who didn’t show up.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Write him at mike@mikeredmondonline.com. For information on speaking fees and availability, visit www.spotlightwww.com.