Deep Fried Bird

I don’t know what made me think of this. But I when I was a kid, I remember when our preacher would often shout the following words from the pulpit:

“When I die, folks! Don’t weep for me! For I shall be in a place where the fried chicken never endeth!”

This was a sort of joke, you understand. And it always got a good laugh from the congregation because our preacher was a very round man who definitely knew his way around a fried bird.

The reason I bring this up is probably because last night my wife made fried chicken. She’s been cooking up a storm lately.

She used a hot skillet filled with peanut oil. Then she made cornbread to go with the chicken, and turnip greens. It was pure decadence.

And while I was digesting, I got to thinking about how the best and worst periods of my life can be measured in food.

Seriously. I can look back on the most sacred memories of childhood and one of the first things that comes back to me is the food. The smells, textures, stains on my shirt. Likewise, I can relive my saddest moments and food is often part of those memories, too.

Twenty-four hours after my father’s death, our porch was loaded with casseroles and various wax-paper-lined shoeboxes of fried chicken. Someone even brought a brown paper sack full of biscuits. There were enough hand-thrown biscuits to last until the Second Coming of Elvis.

Among my people, the period surrounding a funeral features a lot of food. Which is ironic because you don’t feel like eating after your loved one dies. Although somehow, you do.

But anyway, I can retell my entire life story with food:

Infanthood; pureed fried chicken. Adolescence; whole fried chicken. Teenage-hood; two whole fried chickens. Adulthood; cholesterol free synthetic alfalfa hay, Metamucil, and Lipitor.

Throughout my life women have always been appearing out of nowhere, trying to feed me fried chicken. My mother was like this. My wife is the same way. She is always shoving food down my gullet even if she has to use a pitch fork.

It’s no wonder I had high cholesterol a few years ago. My wife was cooking with so much bacon grease that I broke into cold sweats whenever I drove by hog farms.

We’ve sort of scaled our bacon grease usage back a little bit these past few years, in the interest of health, and have switched to whole fat butter. I know it almost sounds like a joke, but food is simply one of the things my people treat like medicine.

Take, for instance, the recent funeral of a dear friend. His family threw a huge feast at the Methodist church two hours before his funeral. It was the biggest spread you’ve ever seen. Six buffet tables of food. Six. This was impressive considering that there were only nine people at the funeral.

And there was the time when my wife had a tumor. I didn’t tell anyone about this except my friend Todd. The next day, our porch was littered with smoked ribs, pork butts, briskets, and pork shoulders. There must have been 50 pounds of meat out there. When I stepped outside to see it all, wrapped in foil, let me tell you: Niagara Falls.

And when we learned that the growth was benign, after we’d gone through a veritable hell, do you know what my wife and I did? We went to McLain’s Family Steakhouse Buffet in DeFuniak Springs, where I ate so much whole-fried catfish that I had to be revived with defibrillators by local EMTs.

And there was the chili supper for my wife’s surprise 30th birthday party—which seems like a lifetime ago now.

You should have seen the little old woman who cooked eight gallons of chili for the event. She was a friend of our family. She initially wanted to cook fried chicken, but I couldn’t afford to buy poultry for 70-some-odd partygoers. So she made chili.

I bought the chili ingredients. It took her two days to make it all. Her chili pot was about the size of a 1955 Chevy Bel Air.

The night of the party, my wife arrived wearing a blindfold. “SURPRISE!” we all shouted. Most of us were holding Styrofoam cups full of chili at the time. Every time I eat chili, I think of that sweet elderly woman. I told this same story at that woman’s funeral.

I wish I could describe what food does to me. It is not a purely metabolic event, it is much more than that. The food of my people can work its way into your soul and your mind. It will light up your memory banks and remind you of people and things you forgot. Of those who love you. Of life, and how short it really is.

It can humble you to the point of tears. That’s not an exaggeration. Believe me, when you hold a brown paper bag full of biscuits with grease splotches all over it, on the morning of your father’s funeral, it humbles you.

I suppose that sometimes all it takes is the simplicity of food to help you realize that even though you might be having a bad day, a day when everything seems to be going wrong, a buffet might be waiting just around the corner.

In other words, don’t cry. Because it will get better. Someday you’ll be in a place where the fried chicken never endeth.


  1. Martha Black - April 10, 2021 7:56 am

    I’m looking forward to it.

  2. Adele - April 10, 2021 9:23 am

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. As always.

  3. Lisa Wilcox - April 10, 2021 9:31 am

    I love fried chicken but the mostly the food of my people in the Philippines is my comfort food: lumpia, pancit, rice, pork and chicken adobo, chicken soup called arroz con caldo (basically chicken and rice soup), or another chicken soup with green papaya called Tinola, rice, coconut or rice cakes, grilled or fried fresh/dried fish… but my sister and I have a thing for fried chicken. With rice. 🙂

  4. ddlowery - April 10, 2021 10:58 am

    I grew up in the 60’s (I’m now 66). One thing I always think about is the old country church I went to with my Grandparents. The church is gone now (burned in 1972). In front of the church were some old Oak trees. Wide oak planks were in front of the trees on which boxes of fried chicken, biscuits, desserts, cornbread, etc. were placed for once a month (Summer) after church eating. In those days, the folks would come together and eat and after that, there would be a “singing”. Good memories of a time long ago.

  5. Suzanne Moore - April 10, 2021 11:01 am

    I loved this! We must know the same people!

  6. Leigh Amiot - April 10, 2021 11:37 am

    Fried chicken draining on pieces of torn brown paper grocery bag, waiting for it to cool enough to grab the drumsticks before someone else did…good memory…thanks Sean!

  7. chip plyler - April 10, 2021 11:52 am

    Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door, and knock …if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

    Breaking bread, biscuits… our Lord himself preached on it – just sayin’

  8. Marc Beaver - April 10, 2021 1:08 pm

    Exactly. I joyfully remember eras in my past…by the food gatherings!!!

  9. Allen Wilhite - April 10, 2021 1:14 pm

    OMG. (My grandkids taught me that.) Just wanted to give you a word of caution, Sean, my boy. I know you meant nothing by it, but it’s probably a good idea not to say things like “my wife’s 30th birthday,” and then add that it “seems like a lifetime ago.”

  10. Dr. Dennis Stalvey, aka Preacher Dennis the Storyteller - - April 10, 2021 1:37 pm

    In ministerial circles we call it the “Gospel Bird”
    When I got my license to preach the first question was, “Do you like fried chicken?” The second question said, “If the answer to the first question is “No” then you ain’t called to preach.
    A preacher’s belt is a fence around a chicken graveyard.
    After a preacher ate Sunday dinner with some church folks, he leaned back in his chair and said, “I see you have a proud rooster out there in the yard.” The man who invited the preacher to lunch said, “You’d be proud too, if three of your sons just entered the ministry.”
    Not every man’s wife can fry chicken. In the South, the real test is if she can cut up a whole chicken and know how to salvage the pully bone without messing up the breast meat. Now that is a real Southern gal.

    • Becky - April 10, 2021 2:46 pm

      “Pully bone” brings back memories. I thought my mama was the only one who called it that. All my friends called it a wishbone. And yes, she did teach me how to salvage it when cutting up a whole chicken. Funny thing is that I haven’t cut up a whole chicken in years. With just my husband and me, we don’t need that much at one meal.

      • Roxanne - April 10, 2021 6:32 pm

        YES to pully-bone! Momma cut up her own chicken and that was the PRIZED piece!

  11. Christina - April 10, 2021 3:16 pm

    Food does bring us together. “Hi” in Chinese is actually “Have you eaten yet?”

  12. Linda Moon - April 10, 2021 4:38 pm

    Maybe the preacher’s fried chicken HELPED him get to the place where it never ends. If anything leads to my demise anytime soon, it would be hand-thrown biscuits. I wouldn’t even have to wait for that Second Coming to see Jesus or Elvis! Totally off-topic here….I’m wondering about the weather there in the Panhandle where you and your storm-cooking wife live. Take shelter from the actual storm, and carry some chicken and biscuits with you!

  13. Alexander Locke - April 10, 2021 4:46 pm

    Here’s where we differ: I’d skip McLains and go to the local tienda where Alejandra and Israel make Delicious Arroz con frijoles refritos and chicharones big enough to choke a pig! Go get some great TexMex next time!

  14. Dennis Self - April 10, 2021 5:12 pm

    One of the funniest songs I’ve heard is by Kate Campbell, titled “Funeral Food.” She perfectly catches what that means, without being sarcastic or condescending. You can find versions of it on YouTube. She’s a Southern-born folksinger/song writer. And while you are at it, look for her song “Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon.”

  15. Frances D Lester - April 10, 2021 5:17 pm

    ” Lighted up my memory banks”, indeed! Time to get out the “Friendship Class Cookbook” or the “Silver Hair Cookbook” and visit with dear old friends, many departed from the earth but living on in their recipes! Cooking is love made visible.

  16. Richard - April 10, 2021 5:27 pm

    I read that the process of assimilation begins with the discarding of the clothing styles from the “old country” by the American-born youngsters. And then the language. You’d think that the last thing to change would be the religion, but it’s not; it’s the food. I know third-generation Americans who still search out and love to eat the “old country” food. They hate eating American fare, hamburger, fries and a cola. It’s a universal enjoyment that begins in infancy and persists through many generations.

  17. Jane - April 10, 2021 5:35 pm

    Spot on!! My love language is making food for someone……..for celebrating, sorrowing, or comforting.

  18. Victoria - April 10, 2021 6:19 pm

    Sean, you are so right! In the summer, my grandma & I would visit. I loved to visit because there were usually a dozen or so of my cousins there too. Grandma would give us money & send us to walk to the store. There we purchased deli bologna, cheese, bread and bottles of Pepsi. We ate like kings those days, even if we only sat around the apple tree in lawn chairs while eating apples & passing the salt shaker. To this day, those were the best bologna sandwiches and apples I ever ate. What I wouldn’t give for just one more of those sizzling hot days spent with those I loved most!

  19. MAM - April 10, 2021 6:25 pm

    Let’s hope the fried chicken that never endeth also comes with biscuits and/or cornbread (with LOTS of butter), black-eyed peas and greens with maybe some mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. And a big glass of milk to wash it all down. YUM!

  20. Roxanne - April 10, 2021 6:39 pm

    Cooking and cleaning are the Things women (I’m from the southern variety of these) can do immediately following a death. There is NO WAY to fix anything about losing a treasured lives one either after a long illness or suddenly and tragically, but even if they don’t WANT to eat, the bereaved NEEDS nourishment. And plenty of disposable paper goods. And someone to sweep the floor and clean the toilets. The story of Mary and Martha in scripture shows us how to handle large gatherings of all sorts. And many of us are Martha’s with dish towels thrown over our shoulders while our hearts are like Mary weeping with those who weep.

  21. Nan - April 10, 2021 7:08 pm

    We can hope we will be in that place….

  22. Bill - April 10, 2021 8:09 pm

    Food, glorious food. I forgot what musical that song originated. But you get the idea. My family heritage is Hungarian. Cooking with bacon grease and lots and lots of sour cream. One dish i remember fondly is Chicken Paprikash or fried chicken made with paprika and sour cream in the sauce.
    My mother would dish up the chicken onto a bed of noodles covered with the sauce. What a feast and boy did it put on the pounds.

  23. David Jones - April 10, 2021 9:34 pm

    You are a great writer. I needed to say that.

  24. Connir - April 11, 2021 9:50 am

    Lord help me. I still cook with bacon grease. And real butter. And I taught my children and my granddaughter to do the same. Not to mention a couple of the honorary granddaughters I have acquired simply because my granddaughter lives with me. I’m an old Southern woman, and food is how we show love. I hope that’s what people remember about me. That I cooked for them and taught them how to cook. That they smile when they talk about me. And that homemade biscuits and a beautiful pound cake will always be part of their lives. Thank you Sean for honoring the people that have loved you so well. Love and hugs.

  25. Amy Ray - April 11, 2021 2:47 pm

    My grandmother has been gone for 20 years but I can still remember exactly what her farmhouse kitchen (which was 9 miles north of McLain’s, one of her favorite places to eat) smelled like- a perfect mix of suger cookies and bacon grease. Whenever I miss her all I have to do is think of this and my heart is happy again – thank you for bringing these memories to mind for me 💜

  26. Chasity Davis Ritter - April 11, 2021 5:41 pm

    I love this and the memories it brings back to me as well. The day I lost my Dad the very first person waiting on my door step was a dear lady who taught me and my brothers in school and also taught both my mom and dad as well. She had a bucket of fried chicken and a tub of potato salad. I hate to admit that potato salad stayed in my fridge for about a year. It got pushed to the back but everytime I saw that container I couldn’t part with it thinking of the love that It represented. Yeah food can sure do that to a person. I heard a joke once and I won’t tell the whole thing but I’ll share the ending.. St. Peter was showing thing couple around heaven at all the wonders and when he got to the big buffet of every food you ever loved the man turned to his wife of XX years and kicks her right in the behind and says “if it wasn’t for you and those damn bran muffins we could have been here five years ago!!” I’ll see ya at the buffet line some day, Sean, if we never meet this side of forever…


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