I have such strong memories tied to fried chicken. I can vividly remember the matriarchs of my family gathered in my great-grandmother's (Grand Mama) small yellow kitchen in Compton laughing, talking shit, and cooking. The kitchen always seemed like the place to be.
Admittedly, a large part of that had to do with the fact that my mother was there and I've always been borderline obsessed with her, but also even as a small child, I sensed something magical happening. There is something almost supernatural about watching black women gathered together in the preparation of food. There is a natural harmony and rhythm to their motions. A knowing in their actions as they mold hush-puppies, stir collard greens or, in this case, fry chicken.
For the longest time I was embarrassed of my relationship with fried chicken. I was ashamed to admit that even the smell of it instantly brought back happy, comfort-filled memories that made me drowsy. For many African Americans, there are painful racial stereotypes associated with one of our favorite historical meals.
I know in my family at least it has stopped us from ordering or eating chicken "round white folks" for fear of them laughing knowingly in their heads "they sure DO like chicken." But I refuse to be ashamed of it anymore. Fried chicken is just universally fucking delicious. Show me someone who doesn't like it, and I'll show you a liar.
While it is stereotypically associated with black America, few people know that though fried chicken was popularized (perfected?) by Soul Food, food historians point to its origins in certain European traditions. It just blows my mind that people stolen from their homes and their land were able to come to America and create a dish so intrinsic to our culture that we've relegated it to the realm of "comfort food." I mean put some gaddamn respect on their names!
When frying chicken there is almost no right or wrong way to do it. In my Grand Mama's kitchen, every woman who could cook had her own version of fried chicken. My Aunt Lisa's tasted different from my mother's and my Aunt Bette's tasted different from my grandmother's. Frying chicken is almost like a fingerprint, no two are the same. When I was first learning how to cook, it used to drive me nuts that I couldn't get my chicken to turn out like my mom's.
It wasn't until much later that I accepted the beauty of fried chicken, which is part of the beauty of Soul Food itself; though it is a heritage, it's special in part because of the amount of love, heart, and spirit YOU are able to infuse into your food.
This recipe that I'm sharing with you here is my version of fried chicken. While I'm giving you the steps, seasonings, and portions I use, I want you to make this your own. You're going to mess it up. You're going to over-season, under-cook, and burn it; and all that is a good thing! The purpose of cooking Soul Food isn't just to make a good meal, it's to create memories.
I hope you are able to gain some inspiration from this recipe and create your own memories around a dish that holds so many for me.