First of all, Happy Tax Day to everyone, even though, for some reason, the government has decided that with the pandemic, people don’t have enough time to fill out their tax forms? So, it’s been pushed back another month, but make sure you still pay what you owe in taxes, which means you probably are going to have to figure your taxes out, and then NOT send it in, but send in any money you are short by tax day. This of course is in addition to the “normal” way that the IRS can extend your filing, so long as you pay what you owe on April 15. Frankly, I’m happy to just pay it all, send it in, and wait for next year…
Well, I am happy – nay, thrilled – to announce that Fargo, North Dakota is now home to the “Country’s Best Chicken.” I know – let that sink in for a minute. I’ve lived and visited all over this country, and have sampled fried chicken in probably a few thousand locations. Some were chain restaurants, some were little dives or holes in the wall. I’ve eaten fried chicken served at over 500 potlucks in church basements, as well as my dear mother’s creation, cooked up in her aluminum skillet probably once a week for 20 or more years. I have had absolutely great fried chicken! And, as you can guess, on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve choked down, and left on the plate some horrible examples on how to destroy fried chicken with very little effort. I remember stopping somewhere in Missouri – nothing against the state, but it’s where the restaurant was. I assumed that “southern fried chicken” would be a simple asset for the eating place, so I ordered a three-piece, all dark meat, with mashed potatoes and gravy. By the way, just so we are clear, there are certain foods, I think by law, that are to be served together. Fish and rice and peas, porkchops, rice or mashed potatoes and green beans, and steak, medium rare, baked potato and corn on the cob. When it comes to chicken, especially fried, it is a requirement that you serve mashed potatoes, gravy and buttery, buttery corn. Otherwise, why bother?
So, I ordered my Missouri plate of fried chicken. It took a little while, but that just made the wait even sweeter. When it came, however, I realized they must have spelled things wrong. What I had place before me was “Misery” fried chicken. I won’t even talk about the lumpy mashed potatoes, or the very dry corn – the chicken itself (at least I thought it was chicken, although it very well could have been pigeon), had some of the smallest pieces of poultry I had ever seen! The drumsticks were no more than 2 ½ inches long, and the chicken thigh – my favorite – was about the size of a ping pong ball. On top of that, they were brown – not golden brown, like you might expect, but close to the hue of a nice chocolate brownie. Yes, they were hot, and the way you could tell that was by watching the river of grease flowing to the low spot of the plate, dangerously close to the potatoes. The only true distinctive part of the meal was their penchant for using massive quantities of salt. I kept wondering if they had been ocean-caught chickens. Not fried chicken’s finest hour to be sure.
Probably my best experience with fried chicken came, strangely enough, in Indianapolis. With chicken thighs the size of your fist, and drumsticks that you could actually play a snare drum with, the taste, texture and doneness had me close to checking out real estate in the city, just to have a home base from which to come and eat, oh, four times a week or so. I mentioned how great the chicken was to the server, and she mentioned that “Bobby Joe” was the cook, and had been making chicken this way for over a half a century. I actually thought for many years that the place actually was the home of “The Country’s Best Chicken.”
But I was wrong, apparently. Last night, when we decided to call an audible on the scheduled menu for supper, and to order in, we stumbled across the restaurant that claimed by its name, “Country’s Best Chicken.” As I look back now, I remembered a scene in the movie, “Elf,” where Buddy finds his way to New York City, and while walking down the sidewalk, he discovers a place that advertised “The World’s Best Cup of Coffee.” He runs inside the restaurant and yells, “Congratulations! You did it! The World’s Best!” Great job everybody! Later on, however, we come to discover that the claim was much more enhanced that the actual product…
Well, we had full confidence in advertising – this is Fargo, after all – and if they say it’s the country’s best, then it must be. Here’s the problem that arose after it was delivered: we weren’t sure “which” country they were claiming to be the “best” of. My research shows that there are a few places in Ireland that they swear you should never order chicken from, and I’m sure there are other countries that probably focus more on lamb or such than chicken, but I can tell you with all definite conviction that Fargo is NOT the site for the “Country’s Best” if indeed, by country, you mean America.
Well, as is my custom, I ordered a chicken box with dark meat. It came, and I must say that it wasn’t completely cold. However, I needed a few paper towels to squeeze the oil out of the one thigh I ate. Apparently, they subscribe to “lo-heat” frying, where the chicken is slowly coaxed in the vat of tepid oil to cook past medium rare. However, I do believe they left it in a long time – maybe since lunch – because the thigh meat wasn’t merely firm – it was like a weightlifter’s biceps – not in size, but rock hard.
And they forgot the corn.
My strong suggestion, for both coffee and chicken, and perhaps any other attempt at eating someone else’s food selection, is that if they are promoting themselves as “world’s best,” or “country’s best,” you might be advised to take a few steps down the road, and find an eatery that doesn’t have to tell you what is not true.
I guess that’s true for anything in our lives. So many people nowadays immediately turn to “ratings” and “stars” and comments before they buy anything, as though we have become unable to trust our own judgment. Instead of accidentally giving over our own good taste, it’s worth testing before believing. That’s an intentional way of life.
Of course, you can always just make your own, and stand or fall on whether you believe yours is the “Country’s best” or not…
Word for the day: incunabula. Pronounced in-cue-NAHB-you-lah. Doesn’t the word sound Latin? Of course it is, and really has no English derivation. The Latin word (singular) is incunabulum, which means either “cradle,” or “swaddling clothes,” or place of birth, or beginning. If you happen to be a book seller, or collector of ancient books, you would know that incunabula stands for the collection of books that were printed using moveable metal type up to the year 1500. They used to be called “fifteeners,” standing for the books printed in the 15th century. Of course, the most famous, incunabulum is the Gutenberg Bible, first printed in 1455.
Apparently, after 1501, it became a much more broadly used process, so these first books, still plentiful, stand as a special time – only 500 years ago, but who’s counting?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.