Thursday, April 14, 2011

Get Ready. . .

for a walk down memory lane.

I grew up in Clinton, Iowa, a mid-sized town on the Mississippi River. Saturday afternoons would find my friends and me at the Lyons Theater where for twenty-five cents for a ticket (ten cents is you were under twelve) and five cents for a Turkish Taffy you could sit through a double feature.

My favorite movies were those where a seemingly harmless insect or animal was subjected to radiation and grew to enormous size. The kind of movies that Count Floyd (SCTV) might show on “Monster Chiller Horror Theater.” Movies like the Beginning of the End about an agricultural scientist (Peter Graves) who had successfully grown gigantic vegetables using radiation. Unfortunately, the vegetables were then eaten by locusts (the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers), which grew to gigantic size and attack the nearby city of Chicago.

Or It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), in which a giant deep-sea octopus, unable to capture its normal prey after it becomes radioactive from eating fish contaminated in an atomic bomb test, threatens the Golden Gate Bridge.

Then there was The Giant Claw, a 1957 science fiction film about a giant bird that terrorizes the world.

Or, my favorite of them all, Them!, in which an atomic blast in the desert causes some local ants to mutate into monstrous beasts. James Arness had a key role in this film and there was a cameo appearance by Leonard Nimoy. I particularly liked this film since the female lead had half a brain and didn’t spend the entire ninety-or-so minutes screaming. Then again, she did have this practice of marching through the desert in a dress suit wearing perky little hats and high heels.

Trust me. There really is a point to this.

It had been a frustrating morning. We had driven to a small town north of Eunice where we thought we would find numerous photo opportunities. Not. Not even anywhere to have lunch. So we decided to drive to Church Point and stop in at Sunny’s Fried Chicken. Or maybe not. We were about two blocks from Sunny’s and were debating whether we should return to Scott and get a couple of plate lunches for takeout at Mike’s Corner Store. And then it hit us. The smell of fried chicken. Not fast food chain fried chicken. Mom’s fried chicken. As if being reeled by an invisible fishing line, the truck was dragged into Sunny’s very full parking lot.

This is basic dining at its best. You review the menu posted on the wall, you go to the counter and order and pay, you self-serve your drinks, you find an empty table, you wait for your number to be called, and you (or should I say Chuck) go to the counter to retrieve your food.

Most of the menu can be described in two words—fried food. In addition to chicken which comes as white, dark, wings, and tenders, you can order: fried shrimp, crawfish, or catfish; a seafood platter; a hamburger or cheeseburger or—if you dare—a catfish burger; or gizzards or livers. Sides include fries, rice dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, slaw, onion rings, and red beans and rice.

We ordered. The “two-piece white” with fries for Chuck. Five wings with a side of slaw for me. We found a booth and waited. Two men came and sat in the booth directly across from us. In front of each was a basked heaped with something that looked like oysters, but I hadn’t seen oysters on the menu. Suddenly I realized that those were gizzards. And not just large orders of gizzards. Mt. Everest’s of gizzards. And at the end of their meal, nary a gizzard remained.

Our number was called and Chuck went to retrieve our food. As he returned to the table, he was laughing. Why? Get a load of those wings (in the two baskets in the foreground, photo left). The staff told me that their chickens come from Opelousas. No. They come from the progeny of the giant bird in The Giant Claw. They have to have come from outer space. No earth-bound chicken can grow such large wings. And not only were they large by themselves, attached to each was a large ball of white breast meat.

This was perfect fried chicken. I thought that it had to have been broasted to stay that juicy. But no, I was told. This is deep fat fried. And the crust was totally greaseless and crackled when bitten into. Anyone have earplugs? And that is why I like to order wings. With a breast, you are quickly out of crust. With wings, the crust lasts though every bite.

With each of our orders we got a marvelous buttermilk biscuit. Actually, I got two biscuits since they had to split my order into two paper baskets, and they put a biscuit on each serving. My slaw was pretty good, and Chuck’s fries were average.

This may have been the best chicken we have ever eaten. This was 5.0 Addie chicken. We went back to tell the women behind the counter. We sought out the owner to sing his chicken’s praises. We talked about this chicken all the way home.

And I had two wings to bring home for supper that evening.

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