Have you ever done something for so long that you feel like you’ve known how to do it your whole life? Sometimes you really have to think what your first experience with that activity was, and how important it turned out to be. Cooking has been one of my favorite hobbies for so long that I tend to not use recipes anymore. From gathering ingredients to preparing them to having the finished meal, I have become pretty capable of doing it all. If I take the time to really remember the first meal I made, the memory comes rushing back. The fried chicken we made that day is still one of the best I have ever had and I believe it was because that was the first time I was able to make and prepare the chicken on my own.
I was about 9 or 10 at the time and it was during my elementary school’s winter vacation. I had probably just been watching TV all day, which tended to bother my grandma who is the kind of person that could not stand doing nothing at any time of the day. She asked me if I wanted to make some fried chicken with her, which at the time was pretty normal, I figured it wouldn’t be until she was just about done and wanted me to shake the bag with the breading and the chicken, which for some reason I found really entertaining. So I agreed and went to the kitchen to snoop on what she was doing when to my surprise she handed me a knife. “Start cutting the fat”, she said.
I hesitated for a bit but she began to show me the spots on the chicken breast she didn’t want there. I remember trying to be careful to remember to cut from my hand and away from my body just like she had shown me many times before. I really did not want to cut myself with her knives, I had witnessed her cut through a shoe with one before. After I finished trimming the 6 chicken breasts she handed me a bag, some flour and small bowl of some kind of other white powder, which my grandma later explained as corn meal, with instructions to mix them and put the chicken in the bag and do the usual shake so she could put them in the skillet to fry them. While I was busy with that she had already cooked and mashed the potatoes and had a pot full of vegetables half ready to be eaten. I don’t think I have ever witnessed anyone cook as quickly as my grandma, one moment she is chopping vegetables the next you are sitting down getting ready to eat.
As the room began to fill with the scent of the frying chicken my hunger began to grow, but sadly I knew it would still be a while until everything was ready and there was still the gravy to be made once the chicken was finished. I just want to take a moment to say that gravy is the best topping on any meal, and I am not talking about just generic gravy. The gravy that I feel is king is the one that you make from the leftover drippings of whatever meat you have made with a little flour and cornstarch and some milk the heated up and stirred into a slightly boiling mess of goodness. Anyways, that was the last piece we needed to finish our dinner puzzle. Once the chicken was nice, brown, and crispy it was time. My grandma handed me another bowl of mixed white powders and while she began pouring in the milk I stirred it all up in the skillet as I had seen her do so many times before. As the aroma rose out of the skillet, my mouth began to water. Just the thought of the crispy chicken dipped in the tasty gravy was enough to make my stomach yell for food.
Finally, there it was a full plate of vegetables, mashed potatoes and fried chicken all hot and topped with gravy. As I began to dig in I just t remember thinking of how good it tasted, like there were little explosions of flavor going off inside of each bite I took. Really thinking back about it, maybe it was that experience of making my own food and eating it for the first time is what made it seem so delicious. I guess I would have to agree with people that say the best meal is the one you make, and to this day I have not lost my interest to cook, old and new meals alike all thanks to my grandma and her knife.