Fried Chicken Etiquette
A Southern Butterflies Story
“Ladies, if we can come to order and get started.” As the monarch of the Unadilla chapter of the Southern Butterflies ladies club, Sadie attempted to bring the buzz of women to order. Many of them had been a part of her life since childhood. “Is there any report on Hattie?”
“She’s recovering nicely from her surgery.” A voice from the back of the room announced.
“That she is. I stopped by today and she was enjoying a spam sandwich.” Another voice interjected.
“Anyone that knows Hattie can rest assure if she’s eating, she’s feeling better.” Mavis followed up with her signature aside to any statement that she felt needed more emphasis for the subject. “God, love her soul.”
“Is there any more illness or concerns that anyone would like to share?’
“Lord, we gonna be here all night discussing everyone’s ailments.” Baxley whispered to her sister sitting next to her. She started mimicking, “Ya’ll keep my cousin Bertha in ya’lls prayers. Her daughter from her third marriage stubbed her big toe the other day. They are sure it’s gonna lose its nail.”
Janie swatted at her sister while trying to stifle a giggle. “Behave yourself. You don’t want momma giving you an evil eye from the head table.”
Sadie could tell by her daughters’ conduct they were up to something. There was no doubt Baxley was the instigator. She cut a quick glance at her eldest, Baxley. “Okay. Last month Elvina Ward and Zolena Hayberry traveled to the state conference up in Atlanta. Many of you know it was held at the Peachtree Plaza hotel on Peachtree Street. They will be traveling next month to the annual conference in Richmond, Virginia. Our northern sisters will be joining us this year.” Sadie turned to the two ladies seated to her left. “Zolena, would you like to give us a report?”
Zolena placed her napkin on the table before standing. “We had a lovely time. The hotel was nice and the rooms were clean. Everyone was excited about this year’s theme, Sacrificing Ourselves for Those Less Fortunate, because so many are struggling with the economy, we are asked to focus on those in our communities that have fallen on hard times. Elvina and I are looking forward to traveling to Richmond next month.” Zolena returned back to her seat. She and Elvina exchanged a glance of agreement that some details of their trip were best left unsaid.
Elvina inwardly shuddered at the memory of the moment of sheer embarrassment. She knew if any of the gossips in the group smelled the hint of scandal, they’d climb over each other to be the first to blab. Lord knows they were still chewing on her getting arrested for stealing Tootsie Harper’s daylilies and irises.
She’d never had been one to try and impress others, except when it came to representing the Southern Butterflies. Elvina unconsciously touched the enameled pin representing the symbol of ambassador, a Tiger Swallow tail. She’d worked hard and it had been a moment of pride when the regional Monarch attached the yellow and blacked stripped replica of the butterfly with its blue dots along its wings; edge to her jacket. In one fleeting moment over a piece of fried chicken, Elvina was positive she’d brought shame to all the ambassadors before her and her chapter of Southern Butterflies.
The night of the banquet dinner, she and Zolena had been seated at one of the front tables, close to the head table. They were joined by other SB’s from Macon, Savannah, and Atlanta. Elvina had wanted to impress those ladies. She wanted to prove that even from the small town of Unadilla, Georgia with the population of three thousand, one blinking caution light and home of a three time World Champion Barbecuer, that she was just as well versed in etiquette, table and social manners.
All had gone well through the first two courses of the evening’s meal. She’d maneuvered the soup without dropping the first drop on the ‘girls’, eat her salad without looking like a cow chewing a wad of cud, and was confident the main course would go just as smoothly. Her confidence evaporated at the sight of the plate being sat in front of her. A big, fat, juicy, golden crusted, fried chicken breast took center stage accompanied with French green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, and slices of fried green tomatoes. Instincts guided her to pick up that breast and bite into it. Her taste buds watered with anticipations of the salty, crunch of the exterior complimented with the smooth texture of the white meat. Elvina hesitated looking at the other ladies at the table with their knives and forks skillfully poised to take a cut out of their pieces of chicken.
The saying, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans’, swirled in Elvina’s head. She picked up her knife and fork. The prongs of the fork sunk into the fleshy part of the chicken, missing any bone. With even pressure, Elvina began to cut into the breast. Resistance was met against the knife’s blade as it hit against bone. In attempt to manipulate the piece of chicken that began to dance on her plate, pushing her French cut green beans into her mash potatoes that threaten to spill onto the linen table cloth, her knife freed the stubborn meat from the bone.
Elvina watched the piece of chicken become airborne with a flight path toward the head table.
Horrified at the attention of her mishap could have created was compounded by the movement of the Queen Monarch herself from her seat.
The well polished and coiffed woman stood from her seat and walked to the front of the table. Her black patent leather heels stopped just inches from the piece of chicken. For a heart pounding moment Elvina watched the woman stoop down. She was positive that the Queen Monarch was going to pick-up the wayward piece of meat and return it back to its rightful owner. Instead, she began to speak. “Ya’ll from the Unadilla chapter. You must be Elvina and Zolena?”
Elvina could not bring herself to make eye contact or speak. Not only had she made a spectacle of herself, but she had brought shame and disgrace to her chapter. Zolena came to her friend’s rescue. “Yes ma’am we are.”
“Sadie has nothing but great things to say about the two of. I just wanted to come down and say hello.” The Queen Monarch stood. “Sadie and I go back a ways. Make sure you tell her I said hi.” The woman returned to her seat.
Zolena leaned over and whispered in her friend’s ear. “I believe the proper etiquette for fried chicken is to use your fingers.” With a wink, she picked up the breast of chicken from her plate and took a big bite from its center.
Creed of the
Southern Butterflies Ladies Club
May our vision always be clear and focused on the path ahead, accepting all the colors of humanity.
May we seek the Son for guidance and bask in the warmth of his love while showing compassion to those around us.
May we listen not with our ears, but our hearts to those in need.
May our wings continue to give us flight in our endeavor to spread goodwill to those near and far.
This is our oath and creed as Monarchs, American Ladies, and all the beautiful species that make us Southern Butterflies.
Author: Tori Bailey