My Grandmother, the late, great, Mary Rowland (May) Bass, was an amazing woman, and a true Southern cook. She moved with ease in the kitchen…even with all four eyes of the stove on high heat. But she did have one enemy in the kitchen—her own attention span. Today I share with you her heroic bout with a flaming pan of Kitchen Mischief.
This was about ten years ago, so May was in her early seventies. She was preparing her specialty for my birthday—a fried chicken dinner. May lived by herself, so I decided to show up a little early and “visit” before dinner. When I walked in, she was frying chicken. I embraced her tiny frame (she was 5-foot-1 on a good day) and we proceeded to visit. About five minutes later I happened to glance up at her kitchen cabinets above the stove and noticed they were charred black. “May, what happened to your cabinets?” I asked, and she gave me a defeated look. “Well, I just had a little accident, that’s all.” That wasn’t all—by a long shot. All of a sudden, the carnage lept to my attention—melted spots on the kitchen floor, cabinets and wall paper blackened above the stove, and angry-looking burns on her forearms. “May-May!” I exclaimed, “What happened?” With an embarrassed look, she confessed.
It went like this. In the midst of frying her first batch of chicken, May went into the playroom to decorate for the party. By the time she got back to the kitchen, it was in flames. The biggest blaze was the skillet, which she grabbed to take outside. It was too heavy or too hot, so she dropped it once on the way out, but she made it to the backdoor and tossed it in the yard. Which of course also caught on fire. After stomping out the grassfires, she hoofed it back to the kitchen, only to find flames licking the cabinets and some of the den furniture. Did she run in panic? Call the fire department? Burst into tears? Not Mary Rowland. She put out those fires, too. And after clearing up the evidence the best she could, she got right on with frying up a fresh batch of chicken.
Looking back, I’m amazed. Had it been me, I would have called the fire department, police, and the National Guard, and my house still would have burned to the ground. At the very least, I would have said “Forget the chicken…we’re ordering pizza.” But not May. What a remarkable woman. She is definitely well-remembered and missed muchly.
The Moral of the Story
Never walk away from a hot skillet. That’s when innocent mischief becomes a serious disaster. Or, you could play it even safer and do a “Faux Fry”…check out this recipe for Oven-Fried Chicken. Sure, it may not be as crispy-delicious as the real thing, but it sure beats third-degree burns!