Monday, February 22, 2010

Real Old-fashioned Fried Chicken

This is a guest post from my dear friend, Lois Phelps. We share many things in common, especially being raised on farms and the memories we have from favorite foods and family dinners. I hope you enjoy her story!

I wasn’t very old when Grandma Ponton taught me how to kill and dress chickens. My grandmother was a petite woman who dressed in a cotton housedress, covered by an apron most likely made from a feed sack with nylon hose and dress shoes but come chicken killing day, she belied her image and became a killer.

In the chicken yard, Grandma chased the chicken with a wire bent with a hook on the end. It didn’t take many attempts for her to land her quarry. She stretched the chicken or rooster’s neck over an exposed tree root and chopped its head off. I know from experience what “like a chicken with his head cut off” looks like. I still remember how long it sometimes took for that dancing, headless chicken to die. Occasionally, Grandma didn’t completely chop through the neck and the chicken would run around with their head flopping around. One old rooster lived quite some time with his head partially cut off. We would pile those dead chickens in pails and carry them down the stairs to Grandma Ponton’s basement.

Next came dunking the dead chicken in boiling hot water so that the feathers could be pulled off. What an odor that made! There was fuzz left so we would light a rolled up newspaper and hold the paper in one hand and the chicken in the other to singe the remaining feathers. You had to be close to a bucket of water to put that burning paper into or you got burned.. There were pin feathers left buried in the skin. We would take a paring knife and push on the bottom of the feather to push them out of the follicles. Occasionally, we would squeeze them just like you would a pimple to remove them. Then came the most fun of all……pulling out the guts of the chicken. I seem to recall doing it from the rear.

You had to cut the heart, liver and gizzard free of the entrails as they were good eating. And you would cut those feet off up to the leg, pull the tough yellow skin off and cook them for broth. It was not unusual for homemade noodles to be served with the chicken feet in them. After you ate the noodles, you picked up those feet and ate the meat off the bones. I still remember how Grandma Ponton taught me to cut up a chicken so occasionally I will buy the whole chicken to cut it myself. Today’s butchers cut up the chicken with an electric saw which is definitely not the same.
My dad loved fried chicken but Mother wouldn’t even eat from a fork that had been in chicken so this job fell to me at a young age.

My grandmothers taught me to fry chicken dredged in flour and the shortening must be lard. There was no need to tell me to use a cast iron skillet because that is all we had. The chicken did cook with a very crispy coating as I recall. My dad would always get the gizzard; we kids knew better than to even ask. His next favorite pieces were the back and the neck. I think he liked to pick out the meat in these bony pieces. Today, we don't even get the neck of the chicken. And who cooks the liver, heart and gizzard! As for putting chicken feet in noodles, my grandchildren would take one look and pronounce it disgusting.

Okay, who is ready for some REAL fried chicken? What are some of your own favorite food memories? I'd love to hear about them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Values to Live By

This post appeared on February 16, 2010, on Corey Allen's


What do they mean to you?

When was the last time you considered the values that make up your character?

Are you trustworthy, loyal, fair, honorable or patient?

Are your friends and family proud of who you are? Why or why not?

What can you do to improve?

What are values?

Values are the ideals or principles of a given society and the personal qualities considered worthwhile or desirable. They are different for each of us and can vary from person to person and even for each person from one time to another.

We learn our values from our families, friends, religion and community. In turn, the people we associate with learn values from us as well. Are your loved ones learning the values that you want them to adopt? The world is moving so quickly that we need to ensure that our families and children understand what values are important to us.

Consider these quotes:

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. ~ C. S. Lewis

As a man, I’ve been representative of the values I hold dear. And the values I hold dear are carryovers from the lives of my parents. ~ Sidney Poitier

What values are important to you?

Think of the traits you admire most in someone close to you, such as a parent or a best friend.

Do you share those same values? Most often, we tend to share similar values with the people with whom we associate. Obviously, that can be good or bad. With young people, it is especially important that they choose their companions wisely.

When I conduct writing workshops for high school students, one of the most frequently requested topics is Personal Values. It is always an illuminating exercise to have the students check off the values that are important to them. One person may select almost all of the values in the list, while others cannot seem to relate to more than one or two. What does that tell us about their character?

How are you passing your values on to your family?

Your actions speak louder than words. If you want your kids to be honest, what are you teaching them by your actions? Do you tell little white lies from time to time, fudge the numbers a bit on your taxes or fail to point out when a cashier gives you too much change?

If your faith is important to you, do you practice it with your family? Do you attend services regularly, or only when it is convenient or a major event, such as Easter or Christmas? If you ran into your minister, priest, imam or rabbi on the street, would he/she recognize you? Better yet, would you recognize them in their “street clothes?”

Children look up to their parents and tend to emulate their actions, whether we realize it or not. As an example, consider your reaction when a 4-year-old drops something and lets out a short curse. Will it be a mild expletive or something stronger that they’ve heard you say? With luck, it takes only a time or two for the parent to realize how much “little ears” pick up from us.

When my grandson expressed his frustration about something by using Daddy’s favorite swear word, Daddy and Mommy both started using a new preference of “Oh, snap!” At first, it struck me as pretty funny, but I was proud to see that exercising their values helped them to teach their children what was acceptable behavior.

It isn’t easy to be a role model for our children, but it is crucial if we want to pass on our values to them. So the next time you are tempted to cut an ethical corner or use words that you don’t want them to repeat, keep in mind that your kids are watching and listening.

Exercises on Values

Try these simple exercises on values. Look at this list of sample values and select the ones that are most important to you, or at least a few to start with. There is no right answer. In fact, your personal values may not even be on this list.


can do attitude
hard work
interest in others
joie de vivre
lifelong learning
open mindedness
positive attitude
pride (not ego)
sense of honor
sense of humor
social skills
work ethics

Your Personal Values

1. Which values are most important to you? Why?
2. From whom did you learn these values? How?
3. Which values do you admire in people around you? Why?
4. In what ways do you act on your values?
5. How do your values help you make difficult decisions?

Once you have identified some of your own values and contemplated their importance to you, take the opportunity to open up a dialog with your family members. Discuss the importance of values with them and share your own experiences.

If you could instill three values into the people around you, what would they be?

I’d love to get your feedback on which values YOU consider important.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Perfect Valentine

As you know, Valentine’s Day is all about love. But do you know one of the best (and easiest) ways to express your love for someone? Just tell them how you feel about them. Okay, maybe you can’t always verbally express what you are feeling, but with a little effort, anyone can write a simple love note.

So how do you get started? Close your eyes and picture your loved one. What do you appreciate most about them? It may be their crooked little smile, their willingness to pitch in to help, their sense of humor, their support for you, the care they give your aging parents or the home-cooked meals they offer.

Whatever it is, they’d probably like to hear you show your appreciation once in a while.

Years ago when I was a kid growing up on the farm, my great-aunt used to bring us clothes and shoes from the upscale dress shop where she worked. I was the only of all my sisters who could fit into the fancy high-heeled shoes that I loved. I could tell how pleased she was to see my enjoyment of them.

As an adult, I wondered what she saw in me as a clumsy tom-boy to think that I could ever clean up so well. I finally mailed her a long letter telling her how much I appreciated her vision and kindness. My plan was to follow up and visit her, then take her out to lunch, but I ran out of time.

Just a few months after I finally wrote to her, she passed away suddenly and I lost the chance to talk in person.

So my point is to let people you care about know what they mean to you now, while you still can. Just a little note or a few words scribbled onto a card may make someone’s day. Why not use Valentine's Day as a reason to express your love?

Who do YOU appreciate? How can you tell or show them? I’d love to hear what works for you.