As luck (and perhaps some grace) found me, I was only left with a week of unemployment.
Finding a cheap post-holiday flight deal, I decided to hop a plane and fly home to my Beloved South. I was able to surprise my mom, which truly meant a lot to me.
I flew in to a muggy, foggy New Orleans. The airport as empty as ever, late last Wednesday night. My VERY southern Louisiana grandparents were there to pick me up and whisk me away to their home off Powerline Road in Pearl River.
Waking up the next morning, I had coffee with my Me-Maw and Paw-Paw on the front porch. We caught up and listened to the rain. My eyes catching the glimpse of my favorite tree. Our Magnolia. The one we all climbed as kids and at some point, got too scared to come down.
I could go on and on about the sentimentality of a place. We all have those places buried beneath the present. On the rare occasions when we can indulge in them, we do. Like waking up in an old familiar bed and partaking in the ritual that used to be.
My drawl slowly forming as I slur my S’s and release syllables like I never learned’em in the first place.
A place where soda is Coke and our mayonnaise of choice is Blue Plate (of which I brought home two bottles). White Lily is the chosen biscuit flour for biscuit afficianados and where shortening is called for instead of butter.
I spent a good amount of time eating and resting. Playing army men and checkers with my niece and nephew. Sweet little independent things they are. I love and miss them all too soon, even when they spill and lock me out of certain rooms.
My Gran and I traveled to Lorman, Mississippi. Home of the Old Country Store, and about one of the only businesses that resides in Lorman, besides Alcorn State University. My Gran, who is always up for an adventure, drove me down the Natchez trace in the freezing rain for Mr. D’s fried chicken.
We arrived and were the first ones there. It was a big, cold building. You heard someone singing in the kitchen and the waitress getting the buffet set up. We learned that it’s probably best to eat there after 12:30, but we wanted the freshest fried chicken. The first batch of the day.
And it was killer. The meat pulled off the bone as though it had never been attached. The crust was perfect and crispy. Good salt. Not much spice, but it didn’t really matter. The sides were pretty typical. Cole slaw, potato salad, green beans in vinegar, yams and biscuits. But we were here for the chicken. And yes, it is that good.
Arthur “Mr. D” Davis came out and talked to me. I think my Gran had mentioned to him in passing that I was a cook in transition. I got to shake his hand and he showed me all the magazines he was in. He said, “I just cook how my Grandmama taught me, and now I got people from all over the place comin’ to eat my fried chicken!” Lots of belly laughs ensued, and told me, “It’s all about fresh, fresh, fresh.”
He leaned in while shaking my hand as we left, and said, “Keep cookin’. Keep lovin’ what you do. The money is not as important as you think.”
I learned so much in such a short amount of time. One of those life-changing moments, to a certain extent.
And as he sings from time to time,
“Grandmama was the cornbread cookin’ Queen, and she raised me to be the Fried Chicken King…”
The ebb and flow of the South is much like it is any other place. After all, it is just a place.
But it’s one of my favorite places — a pride I hold to my heritage,
a pride I hold deep in my breath and belly.