I’ve told you that in my Past Life Pre Blogging Existence I worked with gang kids in South Central LA. Like this kid, and this one. As a skinny, blonde haired, blue-eyed, 21-year-old, I didn’t exactly blend seamlessly into Compton and Watts. My Stand Out appearance was obvious to me, but it was other oddities about the Girl From The Farm persona that were more of a surprise to me, and food was one of those things.
In my culture, while at someones house, this is the expected exchange:
Host: “Can I get you somethings to eat?”
Me: “No thanks, I’m fine.”
In my Middle American Culture, this is what is expected of me and I said it without hesitation, it was polite. Except that it wasn’t. Because I wasn’t in Lunchmeat Small Town USA, I was in Compton and unknowingly offending people who wanted to feed me. It was rude to refuse food, “What? You too good for my food?!”. Before I was shoved against a locker by a co-worker and schooled on the non-WASPy response to food offerings, I was offered fried chicken in a trailer park in South Central LA.
It was late afternoon on a Wednesday and my first session with a sweet 12 year old kid that had found his way from juvenile detention to a foster family living in a 1970′s mobile home, run by a short, kind, plump woman who took her job of Foster Mom as seriously as a heart attack. She was the best I’d ever seen. The house wasn’t fancy (a few weeks later I helped her install peel-and-stick vinyl that she’d found behind a dumpster onto the kitchen floor), six people lived in 400 square feet, and there was no heat or air, but she was pure love. And the woman could cook. She turned the small food budget into a feast.
I made my way up the steel steps of the house as she ushered me into the kitchen to the smell of fried chicken. “You want some?” The no thanks I’m fine standard response stuck in my throat. I did want some. I hesitated, my eyes widened, I had the look of a cartoon dog salivating over a steak plastered on my face.
“Don’t pretend like your skinny ass don’t want some of this. Sit.”
So I did. I sat my skinny ass at the small kitchen table surrounded by mismatched chairs. She joined me, along with her new foster son freshly freed from Kid Jail with the remainder of a GTA still hanging on his juvenile record.
We spent the next few hours talking, laughing, and eating the best fried chicken I’d ever had.
Before I was walked to my car by an older kid who wanted to make sure I was safe, I asked her what her secret was, “Always double up on the flour. Two dips in the flour, two dips in the buttermilk.” I’ll take it. She knew what she was doing.