Friday, November 7, 2014

Sunday Dinner in the 50's

Mama used to make fried chicken almost every Sunday for dinner. We would have mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, green beans or green peas, maybe some fried squash or stewed tomatoes. Mama would have a chocolate cake for a coffee break about two hours after dinner. 

Mama would get up very early and go out into the backyard and select a nice plump chicken. She would wring the chicken's neck, cut off the head, and hang it by its feet while the blood drained out. She would pluck the feathers but by the time she got to the little pin feathers, the chicken was dipped in boiling water and immediately put in in cold water because the chicken skin shouldn't cook at all. By doing this, it made the pin feathers come out easier. 

Then she would cut the chicken into pieces and get it ready to cook. She had everything waiting on the table to get things ready. She would put the chicken in buttermilk, then roll it in plain flour that was salted and peppered. Then she would dip it in beaten eggs and then roll in flour again. 

The huge iron skillet was on the big black wood stove. There was always Crisco melted into it to the exact temperature Mama required. She wanted the chicken to start to fry as soon as it was placed in the grease. She would put in the larger pieces, like the breast and thighs. She would let them cook some before she put in the smaller pieces. She made sure that she didn't put too much in at once because it would lower the temperature in the iron skillet .When everything was cooking nicely, she would turn down the heat and put the iron top on it and cook it until done. about 45 minutes. 

She would then be working with the potatoes that had been boiled on the stove. She would drain them and put in the mixer bowl, add salt and pepper, one stick of butter, and then whole milk as she mixed them up. 
Meanwhile, the green beans would be cooking in an iron pot with a piece of ham or some bacon. 

Sometimes, we would have cornbread, but mostly we would have biscuits. On special occasions, Mama would make yeast rolls. 

She was the best cook  for a down-home Alabama cook. She could cook just about anything. She worked at home most of her life. After our Sunday dinner, we would all go to the front porch and relax. If it was summer, I would lay on the concrete gray painted steps in the shade. That was the coolest place to be on one of those hot Sunday afternoons. We had a huge front porch with a long swing at one end and a glider set at the other end. There was plenty of room for guests who liked chocolate cake with homemade ice cream.

When Mama married my Grandfather Bates, she was only 14 years old. Grandpa was a widower with five children, most older than Mama. She took care of him and when my Daddy was three years old, Grandpa died. My dad was the eleventh of the eleven children Mama had with Grandpa. Nine of the eleven children were born profoundly deaf, so it made things even more difficult.

Mama moved to Bessemer and rented a large house and turned it into a boarding house. She was able to send three of her deaf children to the Talledega School for the Blind and Deaf which was a boarding school there. Six of Mama's babies, either died at birth, drowned in the river, had whooping cough, or diptheria, and died.

Godchaux Department Store on
Canal Street in New Orleans
My dad and my Aunt Frances were the only two of her children who could hear. Since daddy was the baby, he was spoiled rotten. Aunt Frances was one of the older children and as soon as she could, she moved to New Orleans and worked as a beauty consultant in the largest department store there (Godchaux).  

I will tell you more in my blog at least three times a week. There were amazing dishes that I remember and have been researching. My mother has been able to help some. She has dementia now, but she remembers a lot from long ago.


When I lived with my Mama and Uncle Billy in Alabama was one of the best times of my life. They always made me feel so loved and happy. Whenever I need a good place to go in my mind to  relive stress, I go back to those cool concrete steps on a hot day with blue sky and floating white clouds . . . . . . . .