Food Prof Urges Texans to Fry Their Own Chickens

Rebecca Sharpless was at Farmers Branch Historical Park last night ostensibly to hold forth on "Southern women's cooking accomplishments," but the TCU professor lingered longest on a food that few Southerners of either gender are still making from scratch.

"Do any of you fry chicken anymore?," Sharpless asked the two dozen assembled dowagers, who identified themselves as hailing from Georgia, Arkansas, Virginia and middle Tennessee.

A woman in the front row shook her head vigorously, hollering "No, we buy it!"

While certain high-end chefs now pride themselves on their cast iron skillet skills -- think Dean Fearing's much-celebrated "paper bag shook" fried chicken that shows up for Sunday brunch -- a dwindling number of home cooks are capable of pulling off the dish Sharpless calls "the quintessential Southern food." Instead, Sharpless says, they're treating their broods to boxed drumsticks from the grocery store and buckets of seasoned breasts from Popeye's and KFC.

That's a loss worth lamenting, she adds.

"If we're interested in Southern food, we should try to preserve it ourselves," she told the audience before adjourning for punch and Jell-O salads. "Maybe we should all make a pact to fry our own chickens."

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