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Chick Ludwig

Real Southern Fried Chicken

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While reviewing my various historical investigations, I see that I have never posted one of them in this forum. It was a comment made in my post about Real Southern Sweet Tea, but I thought it should have it's own heading, so here 'tis:

 

Hey y’all, I’m sure that by now you’ve all studied my historical report on the origin of Real Southern Sweet Tea. But didya know that the same Indians that originated Real Southern Sweet Tea also discovered what was to become Real Southern Fried Chicken? In the conflicts between villages back before they were all sent off on the Trail of Tears, the Indians would often set fire to the woods around the other tribes village. The free ranging turkey vultures that the Indian kids kept for pets would sometimes get caught by the flames. In the clean up operations afterward, It was the job of the young braves to fling the burned birds out into the woods. Of course they would get the juices on their fingers. They'd then lick the savory juice off and find it good! (By -the-way, this is the first time that "finger lickin' good" was used to describe the taste of fried bird.) But, the little Indian young-uns would cry every time someone would suggest eating their cuddly feathered pets for lunch.

   Parents were much the same in those days as they are today. What parent doesn’t hate to see the tears on the face of their little ones. An answer had to be found! Some enterprising brave had the inspiration to try out other types of birds. He was kinda like the Edison of his day. You know. Invention is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration. He tried sparrows---too small. Mocking birds---too noisy. The cardinal---his wife said they were too pretty to eat. The Carolina parrot---but they were already on the endangered list. He cooked ‘em up anyway, and they were good, but they soon actually did became extinct. He tried every kind of bird he could think of. All were rejected for one reason or another. Too this, too that, some because they just didn't taste very good. Then he thought of eagles. They were big enough. But he had a vision of the white man that was already moving into Indian neighborhoods up in the northeastern parts of the land and already beginning to put images of the majestic eagle on their money. He knew it would make the sensitive white man angry and thought better of it. No point in bringing trouble upon himself and his people.

   One day, as he was sitting on a stump mulling the problem over in his mind, he saw a flock of turkeys. Then, he heard their song. Gobble, gobble. Voila'! (Of course, he didn't actually say "voila'". That was a word used by the white Frenchmen way up in the Canadian provinces.) I dunno what he actually said, but you get the idea that he got the idea that Hmmm, they are big enough. Plump enough to make a good dinner after the Sunday afternoon punkin-chunkin games. He tossed one into the campfire, but it just burned on the outside and was still raw on the inside. Then inspiration struck again! He spied the village garbage cans. A lid would be perfect to use as a cooking implement! Then another inspiration. Melt some bear grease in the lid to help spread the heat. After cooking one up, he popped it in his mouth, and exclaimed, very good! And there ya go, y'all. Southern Indian fried turkey.

   Later, when the white invaders moved in, they thought that the turkey was much too ugly to eat, but one of them remembered the chickens that had accompanied the first Europeans from across the big pond on the Mayflower. At that time, the chickens were always boiled in a pot. but just maybe they would be even better fried. He tried it out, and just like that Indian brave of long ago, found it very good. 

   Betcha ya don't know the name of this particular white man, do ya. It was Hardley Sanders, the ancestor of none other than good ‘ol Harlan Sanders, that Kentucky colonel that made Kentucky famous for its southern fried chicken! And that's the true story of how it all started, y'all.

   Here’s a recent development in the fried chicken investigation. I kept running across the name “Bojangles” as I researched the subject.  Some people seem to think that this refers to another originator of Real Southern Fried Chicken. Actually, his real name was Mr. Bo Jangles. While researching about fried chicken, I came across his name in a footnote. I didn't mention him because he's a late comer to the chicken industry. As far as I know, he spontaneously appeared on the scene just after the War of Northern Aggression. It seems like almost overnight he popped up in various abandoned shacks down around the New Orli'ns area. Rumor has it that he was a Union spy during the war, but fell in love with Real Southern Sweet Tea during his time in the Old Southland. For a time after the war, anyone caught with sweet tea up in the northern states was subject to fines at the minimum, and sometimes even jail time, so Bo decided to remain in the south. (This part about him being a spy is an unsubstantiated rumor, so please refrain from going around telling everyone like it is a fact!)

   That's all that I know about him at this point. Maybe late I'll spend some time researching Mr. Jangles. Right now I'm in the beginning stages of a study about why some southerners seem to prefer their tea unsweetened. This fact comes as a real shock to me, and I just hafta get to the bottom of it. I'll report back to y'all later.

   It’s now later and I have come to the conclusion that any Real Southerner that prefers unsweet tea is deluded and needs therapy. Either that or he's a northern spy!

 

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Ordinarily, I get a chuckle out of Chick’s reported episodes but this time, he done gone too far.  He started messing with southern fried chicken in such a way that I can only surmise he was preparing a talk for the Friday evening liar’s club meeting.  Any true southern  boy who has wrung the neck of a chicken for supper will cringe at some of Chick’s research.  Notice that I said supper as we southerners eat dinner in the middle of the day as all civilized people do and supper is what southerners eat before going to bed.

Early cooking of chicken was either boiled or roasted over a spit as the local supermarket had not yet started stocking lard and frying in a pan was only possible for meats that supplied their own fat for grease.  Rabbits were a big part of southerners diet and they could not be fried either until a source of grease was found as they are known to be the leanest meat to be found, with hardly any fat at all.  Fried chicken might have never made it to first place on the fast food list if Walt Disney had not made all the little kids and their parents squeamish about eating a soft cuddly Thumper.

Anyway, Harlan Sanders did not come onto the fried chicken scene until the fried chicken was already well established as a southern staple and available at thousands of local eat in or take out joints.  There is some argument about who opened the first fast food chicken place but I know the truth.  A down and out couple attempting to flee the depression era dust bowl decided to fry and sell off their flock of chickens before leaving Oklahoma City in 1936.  Story goes that the first batch was covered with dust as was everything else in the area and they called their fare “Chicken In The Rough”.   They went on to franchise the deal and so rough fried chicken can be had in far flung places, even in South Africa.

I experienced “Beverly’s Chicken in The Rough” first hand in 1953 in Oklahoma City and found it most tasty in spite of some lingering dust that added some extra “body” to the crust. 

Some misguided Georgia Crackers may make claims for the “Marietta Big Chicken” in the Atlanta suburb of that name but it you look behind the big 56 foot tall monstrosity that sort of looks like a chicken, there is a typical KFC hiding in the shadow.

I don’t want to dump too much on our friend Chick and it’s quite possible that he was visited by a ghost (it is Halloween after all) of his Bavarian ancestor Mad King Ludwig who may have influenced his writing

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Now I am not capable of really stretching the truth like the master OP. But one thing is for sure, Mr. Harland disclosed his amateur ability early on in the area of yard bird culinary arts when he attempted to cut up a chicken.  Does anyone know how many pieces he gets out of one chicken? Because the establishment  manages to sell some mighty strange pieces from what Granny came up with, which was the authority of lard and iron skillet chicken that  I grew up on. And yes we would wring the necks and then hang them on the outdoor clothes line to bleed out.  Now back to the movie series of "Chick goes out  on a limb without a leg to stand on."

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Oyster brings up another apparently lost art which is, how to cut up a chicken for frying.  Every year for Thanksgiving Liz and I get together in Cherry Grove Beach, SC with her relatives for several days of eating and jawboning, but mainly eating.  Sometimes my contribution is a smoked turkey but mainly I cook three fryers.  Now a Fryer is not just any chicken but the proper southern name for a chicken young enough to have the best and tastiest small parts, not the big and chunky, not to mention older and tougher birds.  I do cheat a bit and cook in a Frydaddy and Grandpappy outside as the kitchen stove is always crowded with other cooks inside.  I do most of the cooking that includes oil or grease outside, which gains points with the important people of the household.  Chickens, shrimp, arsters, soft shelled crab, okra, corn dogs as well as other bits find their way into the deep fryer.  Fish are best done in a cast iron washpot over an open fire but that is another story.

 

We used to get our chickens from the Village Butcher in New Bern until they changed hands and the new butcher had no clue on how a chicken should be cut up or what the pieces should look like.  How someone got to be a butcher without this necessary skill, I have no idea but some chicken lovers just turned up their noses at the unrecognizable pieces on the plate and moved on to other fare.  Among the 40 or so hungry eaters are always plenty of experts of southern culinary fare who look with disfavor on anything that looks as if it may have come from KFC.  Not my fault but I was embarrassed just the same.  Several Thanksgivings ago, the Yankee spouse of one local actually brought a tub of KFC to the feast and was forced to take a re-education program before being allowed back to the table.  Now we, mainly Liz, cut up our own chickens and everyone is happy once more. 

 

Occasionally one family will bring a boiled county ham to the feast.  Now, it's probable that most of you have never heard of or even considered that a salt cured country ham could be made edible by boiling it but, behind such assumptions linger the greater truths.  As a lover of salt cured ham, I myself had some trouble getting past the apparent sacrilege of boiling such an already tasty cultural icon.  Nevertheless, an epicurean delight awaits the adventurous eater who is lucky enough to be offered such a treat.

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