I have so many memories relating to food from childhood to adulthood, from beloved family recipes to exquisite food I’ve enjoyed in my travels. Loving food as I do, it’s no wonder that even as a child, I gravitated towards watching my Grandpa Fox prepare meals with love and joy.
Grandpa Fox was Mom’s father and had retired at a young age after a lengthy illness. After he recovered, he took up cooking. And not just any cooking – the man had a passion and a talent that took his food to gourmet status. I still cherish a number of his recipes, written with his favorite green ink pen, detailing every step of preparation.
Today, I’m focused on his chicken, first off – his fried chicken. If my sister and I knew that Grandpa was making fried chicken, the drive from our home to theirs seemed to take an eternity (or about twenty minutes). As we entered the house, the aroma was tantalizing. Even today I can close my eyes and remember the smell of that chicken sizzling as he fried it to perfection in butter. I was always so grateful that the sight of that chicken frying meant we would be eating soon. Golden, crunchy, tender, each bite was sheer delight. Having discovered that I loved chicken wings, which were also Grandma’s favorite, he’d call me to his side to confide that by a stroke of luck he found a chicken with extra wings. That luck held out for years and I can still remember the twinkle in his eye each time he told me, likely sparked by the sheer happiness on my face as a result of his good fortune.
Then, there was Grandpa’s rotisserie chicken. Fixed on a little old charcoal grill with a small hickory chip smoking tray and a flip top lid, he would load several whole chickens onto the rotisserie, grab a cold beer (or two) and set up his chair so that he was nearby to baste them. Enjoying beautiful Michigan summer days, he would sit back and wait – for us to arrive but also every one of his neighbors who were drawn to his grill. “A nickel a peek” he’d say and then raise that grill top to reveal these gorgeous spinning birds to “oohs and ahhs”. I’m certain those neighbors went home wistful that they could’ve snagged an invite to dinner at Mr. Fox’s house. My sister and I could always count on “free peeks”. Joining him in our little folding chairs as soon as we arrived, we willed him to cook them faster as the smells from that grill had our stomachs growling.
Many years later, Spence bought me one of those “set it and forget it” rotisserie ovens and I have cooked countless whole chickens on them, as recently as last week.
Each time my house fills with the aroma of the rotisserie chicken, I wonder if Grandpa is looking down on me remembering all our chicken dinners together. I figured out the secret ingredient he added to his cooking; it was his love of cooking and the love for those he cooked for.
Our Writing 101 assignment today was to recall a favorite childhood meal, how it made us feel, was always a treat, meant celebration or comforted us, with roots in our memory.
The twist, tell it in our own “voice”.