I grew up on a lonely Mississippi Delta gravel road with only one house on it. Back then the road didn’t even have a name. Our address was just route 1 box 592, Drew. As a kid the most exciting thing that happened there was when the county road grader came through. Today that road is named after my Dad, A.W. Shurden. After he passed I bought the old house from my Mom so I could raise my kids on that same lonely road.
Truth is, that road wasn’t so lonely for me. I could ride my bike to my Grandmother’s house that was only about a mile and a half away. Everyone called her Mammy and I mean everyone, whether related or not. She epitomized the Southern Grandmother in every way. She gave so much love to her grandchildren and I just soaked it up.
More than anything I remember her cooking. True to a Grandmother’s ways she was the best cook I have ever known. Of course she came from a big family and raised a big family so she always “cooked for an army”. There was always some fresh homemade dessert on the counter in the kitchen right beside a hand painted mailbox she used to keep a loaf of wonder bread and yes the kitchen was decorated with that huge fork and spoon hanging on the wall. I swear that every grandmother had that and it was about 4 foot long!
One of my chores as a kid was to mow Mammy’s yard. I would ride that lawn mower which was actually a small International tractor over to her house. That little tractor was slower than my Schwinn bike but I loved driving it. It made me feel like the big guys that drove tractors on my Dad’s farm.
It didn’t take me long to discover that if I came over to mow her yard about 10:00 AM that it would take me about 2 hours to finish and of course Mammy would have me a good meal waiting at 12. So I ALWAYS mowed her yard at 10:00! I didn’t get paid money for that job but the waiting meal was more than I probably deserved. The most common thing she would cook for me was fried chicken wings. It will always be the best fried chicken in the world to me. Every time I eat fried chicken I think of her. Every now and then I can walk into a convenience store and the smell of chicken frying takes me back to a simpler time. I go straight back to her house and her yard and I feel the love that she had for me.
I think a lot about the value we place on food. I would and often do pay over 30 bucks for a good ribeye. We pay so much for a whole lobster. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the fried chicken at the local convenience store isn’t just as good. It’s the only food that lets me time travel.
Normally, I would put a recipe at the end of an article like this. Sadly there is no recipe that can be as good as Mammy’s fried chicken. It was more than food. It was a place, it was a time, but most of all it was love.
Stafford Shurden is a lifelong resident of the Delta and owns 1933 Restaurant & Bar in Ruleville and Stafford’s Market and Deli in Drew. firstname.lastname@example.org