Sunday, 26 February 2012

Oscar Night 2012 - Crisco's Crispy Fried Chicken

As I peruse my matriarch's many recipes, I have come across many references to Crisco, not vegetable shortening, but specifically Crisco.

I remember my mother always had a big tub of Crisco in her kitchen, and if memory serves me correctly, it was the only kosher and pareve shortening available back then.

I finally got around to reading The Help (I am always a little slow on the uptake with current movies, books etc) and instantly fell in love with the story.  As a rule, I try to read the book before I watch the movie...requiring myself to use every ounce of self control I can muster to stave off the urge for instant gratification in the form of a film.  Also, I know that there is no way a good book can be translated into a screenplay without losing much of the backstory and context - something I really enjoy.

And so it was that I waited my turn for The Help to become available at my local library, and began reading.  I got lost in the pages, and was transported back to the deep south in the 1960s.  I could smell Minnie frying up the chicken in a Crisco, and could envision my Bubbie Lou and mother making that same dish. 

In fact, I have a memory of fried chicken that was so crispy delicious on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside.  I do not know where or when I ate this meal, but I can remember the taste as clearly as if I ate it last night. 

My girlfriend loaned me the movie last week, and I watched the words I had enjoyed reading come to life on my television screen.  Again, I imagined my mother - who is roughly the same age as Skeeter , but nothing like her - sashaying in her beautiful clothes, sophisticatedly smoking a cigarette (yes kids, back then it was cool), and preparing for dinner parties, etc..  There was that fried chicken again, only this time I could actually see it,watching Minnie frying the pieces, and hear Celia take a crunchy bite out of the polka (chicken leg).

Now, I am not one to get into the Oscars.  Yes, I like to watch the red carpet show beforehand, and see everyone dressed up and beautifully put together, and I feel happy for the people that win, but I won't stay up late watching the show to the bitter end, and I tend to flip back and forth for the good parts (best actor, actress, etc.). 

The last time I actually cared about who won Best Picture was when Schindler's List won in 1993.  The movie was so powerful and, as a Jew I feel a connection to the history behind the story, so it meant something to me when it won Best Picture.  That night I stayed up to the bitter end, waiting for Best Movie.  I can still feel the anticipation building as they announced the nominees, and then Schindler's List won!  Hurray! 

This is the first time I feel passionately about a movie winning again.  I loved the story behind The Help.  I guess, in a way it is similar to Schindler's List.  It is about good winning over evil.  It is about helping your fellow man, regardless of religion, colour or gender.  It is about doing the right thing, and fighting to free and save those who are oppressed.  It is about hope.  And tonight,  I hope that they win in all categories, and if I can manage to stay up to the bitter end tonight, I will.

And I thought to myself, whatever does one make for Oscar dinner?  I know that Superbowl is chili and hot dogs, but had no clue what you do for the Oscars.  I googled it, and lo and behold, someone was writing about her Oscar Night dinner tradition - granted, this person throws all out Oscar parties, and I am only making dinner - and how she tries to make dishes that reflect or connect with the nominated movies. 

And this is how tonight's dinner menu was chosen - we started with sweet potato soup (a la Norene's Meal-Lean-I-Yumm recipe) Crisco's official recipe for Crispy Fried Chicken (like Minnie makes in The Help), with mashed potatoes, gravy, rapini (in place of okra) and a mescalin salad, with freshly baked dinner rolls...yummy!

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!