Lou washed her hands in the granite wash pan and then pushed the screen door open and slung the water out into the yard. Setting the pan back on the cabinet beside the water bucket, she started peeling the Irish potatoes that mamma had laid out.
“We’re fixing mashed ‘taters, ain’t we, Mamma?” she asked.
“We ALWAYS do!” Bertha retorted.
“Ain’t that all right?” mamma answered in her soft, sweet voice. “Your daddy likes them, too.”
“Me and Daddy like fried 'taters best”, Bertha said.
“Mamma’s making milk gravy and fried chicken,” Lou said, beginning to rinse the peeled potatoes in a pan of clean water, “you don’t eat fried potatoes with milk gravy….”
“I would. Me and Daddy would,” Bertha added.
“Mamma, make her be quiet,” Lou pleaded.
“Sissy,” mamma said softly, “get the bread bowl of flour so I can make biscuits.”
Bertha did as her mamma asked and stirred her fingers around in the fluffy, white flour. Mamma clucked her tongue and pushed Bertha’s fingers away. She shook the jar of buttermilk and making a deep indention in the center of the bowl of flour, she poured the buttermilk in and began to work the dough with her hand, forming a ball. She dipped her hand into a small bucket of lard and drew out a lump the size of a walnut and added that to the biscuit dough, working it into the dough.
“You forgot the baking powder and salt, Mamma,” Bertha said, watching her, mesmerized by how easily her mamma manipulated the ball of dough.
“I didn’t, this here is self-rising-flour.”
“Oh,” Bertha said. She should have known mamma knew what she was doing. Mamma was a wonderful cook.
Mamma sprinkled flour on the countertop and lay the biscuit dough on top of it. She sprinkled more flour on the dough with the metal sifter and began to knead the dough gently. She patted it out slightly and picked up the old empty can she used for a biscuit cutter.
“Let me cut them out, Mamma!” Bertha chimed.
“All right, but don’t make a mess,” mamma said. She placed a greased, metal pan closer.
Bertha carefully cut out the first biscuit and placed it in the corner of the pan, as her mamma had taught her before. Mamma watched her as she cut out all the biscuits and then mamma gathered all the scraps of dough and wadded them together. She tore the wad into four pieces and made four tiny biscuits and placed them in the greased pan.
“Them’s mine,” Bertha beamed.
“No, Lou gets two of them, you gotta’ share,” mamma said. She dipped a spoon into the cast iron skillet of frying chicken and smeared a generous amount of grease onto the top of each biscuit. Then, she shoved the pan into the hot oven of the wood stove.
Lou had the potatoes boiling by that time and watched as her mamma began to take golden pieces of fried chicken from the skillet. She placed them neatly on a stoneware platter.
“Mamma, can I have the ‘pulley-bone’?” Lou asked.
“I want a breast!” Bertha said.
“You can have whatever you want,” mamma answered.
“I want the liver, too, if you get it brown and crispy,” Lou added.
Mamma finished taking all the chicken out of the skillet. She poured up some of the grease and adding flour to the bubbly grease, she began to make milk gravy.
Lou had started mashing the potatoes, adding a generous helping of fresh-churned butter and Pet milk. Daddy LOVED the taste of Pet milk, as did Bertha.
“Sissy, you set the table,” mamma instructed, as she peeked at the biscuits browning in the oven. “ Lou, go call ye’ daddy if you’re done with the ‘taters.”
Mamma poured the thick gravy into a bowl and took the pan of biscuits from the oven. Cutting each biscuit in half, she filled it generously with fresh-churned butter.
“Me and Daddy likes lots of butter, Mamma!” Bertha reminded.
“I’m puttin’ lots in ‘em,” mamma said.
Lou was coming back inside with her daddy, who had been plowing the garden. He took off his hard-shell-hat and hung it on a nail beside the door. He began to wash his hands in the wash pan and dried them on the towel. He grinned, broadly, his even, white teeth gleaming in his tanned, handsome face.
“Smells good in here! We havin’ fried chicken?” he asked.
“YES!” Lou and Bertha chorused.
Mamma had everything on the table and the four of them sat down. They quietly bowed their heads and daddy said the blessing for the food. Chatting merrily, the girls began helping themselves to the delicious food as it was passed around the table. Daddy helped himself to the ‘ bony’ chicken ‘back’. He always said that was his favorite piece. Mamma got a thigh and gizzard. Lou got her ‘pulley-bone’ and liver and Bertha got a juicy breast.
It never occurred to the girls why they always got the ‘best’ parts of the chicken, nor why they always got the last biscuit, or last of the gravy and potatoes. That was the way it always was. They always left the table full and happy. They would never realize how much their parents sacrificed for them, even doing without, if need be, until they had children of their own.