Today is National Fried Chicken Day and I hate to admit this, but it's my favorite food in the world and it's all because of Mary Lee Johnson from East Carondelet, Illinois. Mary was like a second mom to me. I knew her all my life as she had even been there when I was born, taking care of my grandmother. She was always a wonderful, loving, constant presence and I was so lucky to have her for so many reasons, one of which was the fact that she was the world's best cook!
She was a culinary genius, creating all dishes from scratch and to perfection, but my favorite and I think her best dish, was fried chicken. I still have her old cast iron skillet, Griswold #8, seasoned and ready to go. Just recently I received a Facebook message from a childhood friend and his only comment was "I remember when Mary cooked fried chicken for our prom picnic." No one ever forgot Mary or her legendary cooking. She was even a cook at the YMCA, as always, making memories for everyone wherever she went.
She did it all, canning, pickling, caramel cakes, fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pies, fried pork chops, black-eyed peas and cornbread, Navy beans and cornbread, BBQ ribs, turnip and collard greens with ham hocks and so much more! Her kitchen smelled like heaven on earth and was always a happy, safe place for me.
She told me many secrets about frying chicken and I think I'm pretty good at it. Maybe one day over sweet tea, I'll share them with you.