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There's That Southern Sass
(fried chicken recipe inside)
Alexa, play “Let it Go” from the Frozen soundtrack.
I have come to realize I hold grudges. I wish I weren’t this person, but I have an encyclopedic knowledge of nearly every grievance against me throughout the years. For instance, in second grade, this little hussy Mariah wouldn’t let me join her game of “teacher,” so I waited two days and fell on the playground and cried so I could tell our actual teacher that Mariah kicked me. What an ignorant little trollop, taking me on.
Also, hello. It’s been a while since I last wrote to you. I hope you’ve been doing well. Since we last spoke, I started a new job, and life changes! They can keep you busy!
Anyway, last weekend, I went to my best friend’s wedding—a straight friend I drunkenly confessed my love for 10 years ago outside of the Judiciary Square metro station. I’ll tell you that story one day, when I’m equally as wine drunk as I was at that moment. The two of them held it in an art gallery and served Old Fashioned and Dirty Martinis for the signature drinks. Real classy shit. Aside from someone falling into a piece of art (!!), it was a perfect wedding. For the weekend, I wore a purple suit to the wedding as an homage to Julia Roberts in My Best Friends Wedding. I threatened to steal a bread truck and chase him down in it, but that was mostly for comedic effect. Also, I couldn’t find a bread truck.
But going into the weekend, I tried to account for everyone who would be there from the years that I lived in DC. That’s my favorite thing about weddings—it’s the rare opportunity to reunite with people for a positive reason. In a few years, I suppose we’ll have to start reuniting for funerals, or worse, second weddings. But I completely forgot about this woman I’d met right after I moved to DC. A woman who once told me, “I bet if you work on your Southern accent, you could still get rid of it entirely.”
Perhaps the reason I hold onto grudges is because I’ve never particularly had the backbone to defend myself in person. I’ve always been stronger with a pen, and I’ve learned I walk a terrible line between saying nothing at all and saying too much. I also blame this on wine. But all I could remember was, in response to her advice, inviting her over to my apartment for fried chicken. I think that’s my strange attempt at offense. If someone insults me, especially about the South, then show them what they’re missing. Serve them up some fried chicken and be an absolute dick about the entire exchange.
The night she and her then boyfriend came over, I had gotten all these boneless chicken thighs to fry. My fried chicken is my crowning achievement. At the end of this life, I hope they’ll skip my name and birthdate and just publish the recipe on the headstone. But as I fried it, her boyfriend from Chicago came over and watched it as I dredged it in egg and milk, then in a near scientific ratio of flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, and a varietal of spices. He watched like he’d never seen anyone operate a stove before, and I could feel my anger building. There’s something condescending about watching someone do something so natural. In my adult life, I’ve always felt a bit like a zoo animal—someone who operates slightly outside of the norm and, thus, should be gawked at.
A drop of grease spat out from the pan and hit my forearm, and I let out a quiet, but pointed, “God damn!” and he said, “There’s that Southern sass I’d heard about!” I looked up at him, and he had this shit eating grin on his face, like he’d just seen a firework go off for the first time, and for one of the few times in my life, the words blasted out of me without abandon.
Are you fucking kidding me?
All you could hear was the sizzle from the pan and, presumably, my internal monologue encouraging me to burn my entire apartment to the ground, Carrie-style. Imagine me, the belle of the ball, covered in hot chicken grease and rage. My roommate (the present day groom) ushered that girl and her boyfriend out of the kitchen, and eventually, I got my shit together and served dinner. Then I hung out with that girl for a few more months before we stopped talking entirely.
And you know what’s weird? I never told her how mad that made me. Never saw him again either because he was more of a boyfriend du jour, if you catch my drift. But, God, it infuriated me. Because it was no different than the changing your accent comment. I felt like this side show when I first moved away from home. I find myself with fewer and fewer of those stories, for a few reasons. First off, the hope is that as you get older, you surround yourself with better company. People who are befitting of your fried chicken. But also because if you’re going to be outside of the norm—a side show, if you will—you at least get to share it with the people who appreciate it.
When I ran into her at the wedding, I remembered that exchange and had a moment of adult clarity as we discussed kids and family and jobs… she probably doesn’t even remember this story. Aside from me telling it to you, I’m not exactly sure what the benefit of holding onto it is. I’ve been thinking a lot about stories like that lately. As someone who loves to gossip and tell stories, I catalogue as many as I can, and you know what? I wouldn’t change that for the world.
But the grudge side of it, I think I might. Or rather, I think I’m trying.
The man she ended up with is an absolute dream, by the way. And she seems to be doing well herself—I think that’s all you can hope for in your early 20s, that you’d have your shit together a little more 10 years down the line than you do in that moment. And that the people you crossed aren’t the types who nurture their anger for a decade. Because if they do, and they’re the one holding the frying pan, then you can’t blame anyone but youself.
As penance, I offer up my fried chicken recipe:
1 lb. chicken thighs
1 c. flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 tbsp. potato starch
3 tbsp. garlic salt
2 tbsp. cayenne
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 c. buttermilk
Dredge chicken in egg and buttermilk mixture, dredge in dry ingredient combo, deep fry in a quart of vegetable oil until golden brown.
Anyway, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it. I’m freelance writing these days, and in case you want a quick update, check this out.