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Living a John T. Edge book
One of my favorite John T. Edge pieces is in his book Fried Chicken: An American Story. He travels to New Alsace, Indiana, to attend a fried chicken dinner at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. He speaks of camaraderie and good food. At the end of it all he feels closer to the people he has met. He feels more a part of their brotherhood. We shared that same experience and began to join the Southern Foodways Alliance brotherhood at a chicken stew picnic during Camp Shoals.
The picnic was held on the beautiful grounds of historic Pope’s Tavern in Florence, Alabama. Under the shade of huge trees, children ran and played, two sweet young ladies sold lemonade as a fund raiser, and the grown folk mingled and listened to dulcimer music. The scene reminded me of picnics on the grounds of the Methodist church in Greenleaf, Mississippi, more years ago than I care to count.
Despite the idyllic setting, the stew cooking was full of dramatic elements. There was the grizzled veteran with the battle-scarred cast iron pot. There was the starry-eyed newcomer with the shiny new pot. The two contenders went toe-to-toe until the very end. The newcomer put up a valiant fight until the veteran came out with the last minute sucker punch. That’s right, folks. The secret ingredient in chicken stew is a big ham hock hiding at the bottom of the pot.
In spite of the secret ingredient, the newcomer’s chicken stew was darn good too. Silly me, I was too busy wrestling with my conscience about sneaking back for thirds to ask about the recipe. I’m looking forward to seeing all the great folks again. For more than just the recipe, of course.
I do want that recipe though.