My First Barbeque Chicken Cooking Lesson!

Everyone knows what they were doing when Elvis died. I remember just as vividly where I was and what was happening around me when I had my first barbeque chicken lesson. A cookout under the stars had been planned but that idea vanished with the first few drops of rain.

Mother Nature was trying her best to drown all of us in a monsoon-like downpour. She seemed determined to ruin our annual Chicken Night cookout. I was a member of our church’s Royal Ambassadors, a kind of boys’ club. Every year we had a cookout at the state park just outside of town.

Our outdoor cookout appeared to be doomed by the rain. We dashed inside to what could arguably be called a pavilion with a tin roof. The rain on the metal top of the shelter was deafening. It sounded like applause from 20,000 crazed Barry Manilow fans! No one could keep a fire going outside. We would have to adapt to the situation!

A giant stone fireplace commanded attention from one end of our pole barn shelter. Dry wood was stacked neatly to the side. There were no metal grates in the firebox on which to lay the chickens. The ones on the outdoor stone grills were encased in cement and couldn’t be moved. Starting a fire in the rain was out of the question.

Our counselor, Mr. Smith had an idea. To us kids it seemed ridiculous but he seemed to know what he was doing. Instead of cutting up the chickens so we could cook them on the grill, he decided to leave them whole. He then ordered us to go out and find hickory leaves. He pointed out several of the large hardwood trees for those of us who didn’t know one tree from another.

While Mr. Smith and the other male counselor were starting a fire in the fireplace at the end of the shelter, we boys were scurrying through the rain trying to find hickory leaves. When each of us had both hands full we dashed back into the pavilion, soaking wet.

When the fire was roaring and we were drying off, Mr. Smith pulled out a small notebook that held his very own barbeque sauce recipe. Out of mayonnaise, catsup, mustard, salt and pepper, he was going to make the most wonderful tasting sauce I had ever put in my mouth.

This was before the grocery store shelves were filled with dozens of prepared sauces. Back then if you wanted something with which to baste the chicken, you had to make it yourself.

Next, he lathered up each of the six whole chickens with the mixture and wrapped them in the hickory leaves. But, the birds needed one additional condiment; mud. He grabbed the bucket that had housed our chickens and walked outside into the rain.

Scooping up mud from outside the pavilion, Mr. Smith filled the bucket and hurried back to the pole building. Now my part of the process was about to begin. After each of us registered our disgust at the mud, we got down to the business of applying it to each chicken.

Each of us boys had a hand in coating the leaf covered chickens in several layers of gooey, sticky black mud. Next, he scooped out hollows beneath the burning logs and carefully placed each bird in the fiery embers.

I don’t recall how long they stayed in the fire, but I do remember the aroma of baked chicken drifting on the clouds of wood smoke coming out of the chimney of the fireplace. It seemed like an eternity before Mr. Smith raked the six chickens out of the coals.

When he cracked open the hardened mud shell, steam erupted from between the hickory leaves and the bird just fell apart. Until this day, I have never eaten chicken any better than on that rainy night in North Alabama.
Sabung Ayam
Southern Culture on the Skids + Woolly Bushmen
Southern Culture On The Skids has been spreading the rock and roll gospel since since they formed in Chapel Hill, NC in1983. Guitarist/singer Rick Miller, drummer Dave Hartman and bassist/singer/heartbreaker Mary Huff, play a greasy mix of surf, rockabilly, R&B and country-fried garage with a side of psych, all the while driving fans into ecstatic, sweat-drenched paroxysms of joy. Its a musical gumbo Miller calls, Americana from the wrong side of the tracks. The band has been prolific and ubiquitous for over thirty years, touring everywhere from the North Carolina Prison System to Mt. Fuji, Japan and delivering what Rolling Stone calls a hell raising rock and roll party. In 2014 the band was honored by the Southern Folk Life Collection at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with an exhibition featuring their music and cultural contributions. The flame-adorned La-Z-Boy from the cover of their Plastic Seat Sweat LP now resides at UNC-CH! http://www.scots.com Woolly Bushmen (Orlando) https://thewoollybushmen.bandcamp.com $16 Presale / $20 Day of ALL AGES

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