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Nostalgia March 2018

Just Sayin’

The Magic of the Fry Pan and Fried Chicken

By Lynn Walker Gendusa

Astounded and perplexed, the doctor was silent. I intervened, “Doc, don’t you know southern fried chicken is healing and the fry pan, magical?”

If you come from the hills of Tennessee, or anywhere in the old south, you probably inherited or own a cast iron skillet. I have a stack of them.

I can still remember my tiny great-grandmother standing over her wood-burning stove, apron tied around her waist, hair twisted in a bun, frying something in her old black fry pan. I now own that skillet that she inherited. It is at least 150 years old and is still frying.

My grandmother had the skillet next, along with an assortment of other sizes that were handed down to her or she bought. One day right before I married she handed one to me.

She was the funniest woman I ever knew. I still remember her hoisting that heavy cast iron fry pan over her head by the handle saying, “Now, Lynn, you know that this can be used for things other than frying, don’t you? Don’t you let anyone hurt you. You whack ‘um with this if they do, you hear?”

When I lived alone for many years, I had that heavy iron skillet under the bed. I would take it out only when I needed to fry up some magic.

My mother, the next one in line, swore you couldn’t eat a better grilled cheese sandwich than one she fried in butter using her little iron skillet. She was right, you couldn’t. The tiny black pan holds only one sandwich and will bake just enough cornbread for two.

Every time I cook using one of these skillets, the memories return of the wonderful, strong, southern women who used them. I am reminded how blessed I am to call them “family.”

I have determined that fried chicken is as magical as my pans. I learned to fry it years ago. My recipe is unusual and comes from someone else’s grandma in Florida. I’ll bet they used an old iron skillet and it is associated with its own batch of stories.

When you have an accent like mine, folks expect you to know how to cook fried chicken. That’s the truth!

My friend, Susan, was diagnosed with incurable cancer many years ago at the age of 52. She went through brutal rounds of chemotherapy. During that time, the nausea was so severe it was hard for patients to eat anything during their treatment.

I was with her when the doctor told her she had to eat. He put her on milkshakes and eggs. She hated both. I looked at her and declared, “No Susan, you need your favorite meal – my fried chicken and green beans!”

When I returned home, I pulled my iron skillet from under the bed and fried her a batch of chicken. Once I arrived at her house, she ate several pieces along with those fresh green beans. She never got sick.

I accompanied her again to the doctor the next week. He asked her if she had been able to eat anything.

“Yes, fried chicken and green beans!” she beamed.

Astounded and perplexed, the doctor was silent. I intervened, “Doc, don’t you know southern fried chicken is healing and the fry pan, magical?”

My chicken didn’t cure Susan, of course, but it sure did heal her spirit for a while.

How many times have friends gathered around my table drooling over crispy fried chicken? Even those who eat only green and those who never eat anything golden, suddenly are devouring the word “never.”

The other day I had lunch with an old, dear friend. He has struggled this past year with illness and is not quite out of the woods. However, I am sure he will be because he is the tallest, best tree in the forest and there are endless amounts of people praying for him.

I thought he knew most things about me, but as we were dining, the conversation drifted to fried chicken. I told him about my stack of fry pans and my specialty.

“You fry chicken?!” he said, shocked.

When I told him, I had done so for years and about the chicken’s magical properties, his eyes lit up and his mouth watered. How the heck we had known each other so long and he had missed that tidbit of information was unthinkable! We both laughed as I promised him a plate soon.

It’s is funny about the little things in life. How something as seemingly small as an old fry pan and a piece of southern fried chicken can evoke special memories. They can cure an illness for a moment, gather friends around a table, and give a promise to a special pal who stands tall in the forest.

That kind of magic is a beautiful, golden thing.


Lynn Walker Gendusa is a weekly columnist for a Georgia newspaper. She can be reached at l This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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