Monday, July 18, 2011

The Great Fried Chicken Caper

I'm not sure what's in the weather but I posted a comment about Ole Miss tickets for this year on Facebook and within minutes, email communications would commence from guys I haven't spoken to in a long time. Maybe it's just the heat and we all long for cooler weather. The kind of weather that brings college football and fall foliage.

Hearing from all these guys from so many years ago would prompt me to tell a story from my college days. Now it's important to note that this is probably one of the only stories I can tell as the rest of them would get me in trouble.

And in keeping trouble under lock and key, we'll carefully venture back to Oxford, Mississippi when life revolved around a pair of lions that sat in front of an SAE house at Ole Miss.

Unlike the fraternity houses of today, the SAE house at the University of Mississippi was the epitome of old South. A little old lady by the name of Miss Carroll was our house mother. She must have been in her seventies and I recall she drank quite a bit. But who wouldn't living with 30 derelicts in starched khakis and wrinkled blazers all smoking Marlboro lights and drinking beer by ten in the morning. School was just something that got in the way of our social time.

There were two women that cooked for us under the direction of Phillip Shipp who was the kitchen manager and an upper class-man. The problems with being the kitchen manager were the continuous break-ins within our fraternity house kitchen. This absolutely rubbed the two cooks backwards and Phil caught hell for it as he was in charge. Day after day, Phil would let us all have it about the break-ins and how it was running up our food bill.

So how were they getting into the kitchen assuming the door was locked? Well it wasn't rocket science as every morning, the door lock had been beaten off with something. This was pretty common as once I saw a fraternity brother chopping down our house mother's door with an axe at three in the morning. "Come on out of there Miss Carroll! I know you're in there!"

With as much construction knowledge as a young college student would hold in his head, Phil went to the hardware store determined to create the ultimate break-in proof door deterrent. Complete with a brand new giant Master lock and hardened-steel shackle along with stainless steel chains, he spent hours drilling in new holes and fitting in a new zinc-plated hasp. This would be his finest masterpiece.

Sure enough, we came rolling in at three in the morning and that kitchen was locked down tighter than Fort Knox. No way we were getting in there that night.

We all sat down in the living room and Perry Galloway looked over at me and said, "You know they put chicken out to thaw for tomorrow. I saw them do it."

Now Perry Galloway was a kid from Yazoo City, Mississippi. He was generally quiet and never had much to say. But when he did, it was always to the point. When Perry was around, you could see him working things out in his head.

"So what do we do with a bunch of raw chicken?" I asked. 

"We fry it," he replied.

Unbeknownst to me, Perry had been watching Norvel, one of the cooks, for months. He was infatuated with the deep fryer and just by watching her, had figured out how to work it. It was a big deep fryer and quite intimidating if you really didn't know what you were doing.

"You think you can get in there?" he asked me.

I went in the dining room and looked at Shipp's new lock. This was going to be tough as the chains were thick and the lock probably weighed five pounds.

I went outside to the entrance that was on the other side of the house. It was an old white door with a three panel glass window. I'm guessing it was original to the house as it had been painted numerous times.

I looked closely at the windows and about that time, Perry and the rest of the guys came around to the outside door to see what I was up to. "Go get me a screwdriver," I said and within minutes, someone had handed me the requested tool. I eased the dowel trim from the door pulling slowly so as not to bend the finish out nails. "I need a plunger." Within a minute, I had a plunger and had applied it to the glass so as to remove it from the door frame.

They quickly hoisted me into the kitchen where I unlocked the door. We had only flashlights as we knew that turning on the main lights would bring the heat.

Perry went over to the deep fryer, lit the fire and threw a fresh match in the grease. "That's how she does it. When that match lights, that grease is ready."

Sure enough, Perry was right on about the chicken. We immediately formed an assembly line and began seasoning, dipping and flouring well over 50 pieces of chicken. Perry threw them in the deep fryer until they were golden brown then dipping them out with a wire screen strainer, laid them gently onto a paper towel.

Laughing to ourselves, we sat and ate every piece of that chicken and to me it was the greatest meal of my college career. It wasn't that the chicken was all that special but that we were all together. A band of boys from all over the U.S. that virtually enjoyed every minute of every day together. And wouldn't take one minute back if we could.

Phi Alpha

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pineapple Infused Vodka

A week or so ago, I had a client meeting in Dallas. The meeting was originally scheduled for the Porch which is a watering hole I tend to frequent when I can. However, at the last minute our venue was changed to a place in Victory Park called Medina Oven and Bar which specializes in Moroccan cuisine.

This was to be a late afternoon meeting over drinks so as uncultured as I am, I was preparing my palette for an ice cold beer in this 100 degree heat that resonates off the concrete in Dallas.

The waitress comes over and my client orders me a drink. All I heard was vodka so I was already waving my hands in distress. It was four in the afternoon and I wasn't ready to hit the hard stuff. He insisted that I try it so I caved to his suggestion.

We began to talk business and the waitress sits the full Tumbler of the vodka concoction next to my place setting. As we continue to talk, I ignore the drink as I'm having a hard time selling myself on the idea of drinking it. My client looks up and says, "You going to try that thing or what?"

When I took the first sip I almost stood up and did a shuffle across the floor it was so good. "What is this thing?" I asked. My client tells me it's an infused drink that combines whole pineapples and vodka.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the best summer drink I've ever had and the wheels were already turning on how I could duplicate it when I got home.

The main ingredient in this drink is time. Yes folks, time and lots of it.

Pineapple Infused Vodka

Go get yourself a pretty large glass jar. The kind you can seal at the top as you want to make sure this thing is sealed up tight.

Slice up a fresh pineapple or two and put the wedges into the jar. Now some folks can get down right fancy like the one in the picture above but as long as you stack them nice and high, you'll be fine.

Place in 4 Cardamon Seeds

Pour in the vodka all the way to the top and seal it shut.

Place the jar in a dark corner and let it sit for 1 to 2 weeks.

Serve over ice and enjoy.

WARNING: This drink is really really good. But remember, it's straight vodka so be responsible. Just think back to that girl who had too much trash can punch in college and passed out in the shrubbery. You know who you are.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Age...A State of Mind

What is old age these days? Is it still the little old blue haired lady from church like my grandmother once was when she was still alive? Or for some people, is it something different? My father is now seventy years old and works out every day on an Elliptical for an hour. He may be in the best shape of his life and can still hang with the best of them. He is an inspiration to guys like me who really have a hard time sticking to that kind of discipline.

This last week, I had a conversation with a creative director about our culture's perception of old age and what it means within our society. For most of us, it's not a pleasant topic as getting older just means you're that much closer to the end.

For guys like my dad, I don't think he's ever missed a beat. If the man were to drop dead tomorrow, I would certainly miss him but even at death's door he might give the good old grim reaper a run for his money.

Which brings me to the point of this blog which is to say that age is not a number. Age is a choice. You can either live life or buy yourself some stretch pants and call it a day. It's entirely up to you.

An icon of youth which should serve as an inspiration to us all is a woman by the name of Anna Mae Bullock. She was born on November 26, 1939 which would make her seventy two years young. Now most of you wont' know this name as it was her given name. Not the name Ike Turner gave her when she became Mrs. Tina Turner. And you should all know the stories of her life as they have been written about as well as featured in the full length movie, What's Love Got To Do With It, in 1993.

With as much historical press and fame as Tina has received over the years, you forget just how old she is. She is not that little old lady sitting in a chair knitting a sweater. You don't really think that almost 100% of the folks in retirement homes are her age. It doesn't cross your mind that when she was born, Adolf Hitler had just taken control of the German army. On the contrary as when you see Tina Turner, all of these realities go away and what's left is a vibrant seventy two year old young person.

You hear a lot of heart ache sometimes from older folks. How tough their life was. How hard they had to work. And I won't discount all of these facts as I'm sure it was. LIfe ain't no bowl of cherries. However, given what we know about Anna Mae Bullock and just how difficult it was for her on so many different levels, I would say she is the bar for all of us to reach towards.

This concert was filmed in 2009 which would mean Tina was seventy years old then.

Is she an old lady or is she a statement?

You be the judge.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Empty Space

My father had dinner with my eldest son on Friday before he was to leave for a music school up north. Our first good bye to a once little boy that used to collect dinosaurs. He is now taller than I am and at the end of this next school year, my wife and I will be faced with the painful thought of his leaving for college.

After dinner with my father, dad called to tell me what a good boy we have raised. I replied that he is and will be a much better man than I could ever be. I believe this to be true as his mother has surrounded him with things that are good. What I mean by this is she has made such great efforts with all of our boys to see that they are centered within a Christian environment. So much so that when my youngest came home from Vacation Bible School, he announced that he had learned enough about God and couldn't possibly fit any more in his brain.

Which leads to another topic of conversation and that is what happens to a man, or a society for that matter, that leaves space in himself for other things rather than God?

I think the answer can be found with Darrell Scott who lost a child in the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado. He was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee after the shootings and what he said was certainly not typical of what a parent might say after something so tragic.

The following is a portion of the transcript:

“Since the dawn of creation there has been both good & evil in the hearts of men and women.. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

“The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.... Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart..

“In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA..(National Rifle Association) I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA - because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent..

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy -- it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best.

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!

“Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational  systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs -- politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.

“As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA -- I give to you a sincere challenge. Dare to examine your
own heart before casting the first stone!

My daughter’s death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!”

The words spoken by Darrel Scott are a painful truth and unfortunately represent a road that we have let ourselves travel down as a society. During this fourth of July holiday, let us all remember that we're celebrating the Declaration of Independence. A document that founded a society around the belief of God Himself.

Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.

—Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1775