If I were to turn on the news right now, I'm pretty sure I'd hear about violence in the middle east, one or more of the many politicians considering a run for the presidency in 2016, or speculation about who's to blame for the Patriots' underinflated footballs. By not turning on the news, I'm free to let my mind wander until it stops to ponder the decline in status of fried chicken.
All through my childhood, fried chicken was the star of Sunday dinner. Every single week after church, my grandmother would fry up a store-bought hen and serve it with mashed potatoes, thick white gravy, whole-kernel corn and Brown 'N Serve rolls. In the summertime the corn would still be on the cob (we called it "roastin' ears"), fresh from my grandfather's garden, and thick slices of home-grown tomatoes were added to the menu.
Frying chicken was messy work. It dusted the kitchen with flour and sealed it with a coat of grease, but Mammaw put on her apron and did it anyway, because she knew how much we all liked that meal. When I grew up and had a family of my own, I followed her example.
Once a week, every week, I fried chicken. I cooked it for an evening meal, though, not at midday, and it might have been a Sunday or it might not have been. The chicken was a favorite whenever we had it, but it wasn't as special as it used to be when it marked a specific day and time.
Somewhere along in my daughter's school years, Colonel Sanders came onto the scene. Once in a blue moon, usually if we were traveling, we'd stop at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant for a meal. Fried chicken eaten out, no matter how tasty it was, didn't seem special at all. I still cooked it regularly at home.
By the time we moved to Louisiana, KFC had locations all over the place. Soon afterward, Popeye's franchises came to town. When I considered the time and the mess involved in frying a chicken, the idea of stopping at a drive-thru and bringing home a bucket or bag of it fried elsewhere seemed too good to pass up. I traveled that greasy, slippery slope time after time, and it's been years since I've fried a chicken. I don't imagine I ever will again.
As delicious as fried chicken is, it's become fast food, no more special than burgers or tacos or pizza--something to eat because it's convenient, something to avoid if you care about your arteries. I like it still and eat it once every couple of months, whether I should or not. The delicious flavor is still there, but the magic that used to come with it never makes it into the box.