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Just like grandmother used to make

Barry Smith

My grandmother passed away last week, so in honor of her I’m reprinting this column from February 2000:My grandmother, who is in her 70s and has lived most of her life in deep, deep Mississippi, loves to cook for me. She moved to Southern California a few years ago to be with the rest of the family, and whenever I go out for a visit she always breaks out the best grease for her first grandson.As a native Southerner my own darn self, I have nothing against the culture of deep-frying. In fact, I embrace it. Unfortunately, at some point my grandmother got it in her head that my absolute most favorite food in the world is fried chicken livers.It was at least five years ago, but I can’t seem to pinpoint it in my memory. It’s one of those things that just kinda crept up on me and before I knew it, word was out: Barry LOVES fried chicken livers. Everybody knows that about him. So let it be written, so let it be done.The only problem is, well, I DON’T love chicken livers. In fact, I think they are pretty nasty. If I really think about it, they’re about as disgusting as anything I can imagine, and it’s all I can do to even say the word “liver” without my gag reflex triggering. But I’ve let things go on for too long to break this news to her. I mean, at this point, years down the road, there’s no way that I can just up and say what’s really on my mind: “You know what? I’m really not partial to chicken livers, fried or otherwise. In fact, if I were to go for the rest of my life – and I mean a long, healthy life – without ever again eating, smelling, looking at or even thinking about fried chicken livers, well, that would be like winning the lottery. I’ve only been eating them all these years because you always have them fried up and draining on a piece of paper towel before I can stop you. And I hated to disappoint you after you went to all that trouble. But I can’t play this game any more. Please, I beg of you. Make the livers stop!”Nope, way too far gone for that. I am clearly doomed to a life of eating fried chicken livers. My grandmother still has her wits about her, so this isn’t some sort of senility thing, it’s just a simple mistake that I failed to nip in the bud. Some member of our family, I’m sure, loves fried chicken livers, and I’m sure they’re wondering why they haven’t been getting their favorite food cooked for them when they visit. But they probably don’t have the heart to break it to her, either. See, my relationship with my grandmother is such that she could say, “Barry, I fried you up some of that gutter sludge that you like so much. Come on in here and get you some.”And I, of course, would have no choice but to eat the well-fried and probably pretty tasty gutter sludge as she stood at the stove saying, “Finish that up, now, hear? I got a whole bucket full of sludge here that needs to be eaten ‘fore it goes bad.”I do it out of love. I was visiting with my grandparents recently, and since I only see them about once a year, I always forget to put in my liver-free meal request before arriving. I could probably get away with that – telling her in advance that I’m on some weird diet that will not allow me to eat those yummy, yummy livers. But it slipped my mind as always, and the next thing I know I walk into the kitchen and there are three cast-iron skillets of sizzling Crisco, each one filled with livers and covered with a well-used spatter screen.”I made you some livers, Barry,” she beams from behind the stove exhaust. “Come on in here and get you some.”I ate at least a skillet’s worth – with enough ketchup they taste almost as good as gutter sludge.I did it out of love.


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