I'm a sucker for a fried chicken sandwich (FCS). And I think that part of the appeal is its passive nature. Unlike gnawing on a piece of fried chicken, which requires one's full attention, a sandwich can be picked up easily and nibbled. It can be munched in an almost mindless way, with none of the greasy-fingered drama usually associated with the fried-on-bone version.
The counter at Mrs. Whites is a portal to another time and place.
That's what I was after on my way to work this week. I was hungry, but I also had a whole lot of typing to do once I got in. I decided to pay a stop to Mrs. White's, right down the street, as they open shop at 10:30 each morning.
The restaurant is better known for their plates of smothered fried chicken, fried catfish, pork chops, and ox tail. But I saw a sandwich option on the menu, and decided to give it a try.
While I was waiting, the cook emerged from the kitchen. "We got Good Seed bread. Is that okay?" he asked. "Sure," I said, secretly mourning the fluffy white bread roll I was expecting.
I took my to-go order and headed to the office, not sure what to expect when I opened the fragrant Styrofoam box.
I flipped open the lid to reveal two perfectly fried pieces of chicken atop a slice of wheat bread, alongside a small side of hot sauce.
I just laughed.
This was no passive meal. I ended up with greasy fingers, my attention fixed on the task of tearing off bites of moist flesh encrusted with perfect, peppery skin. I layered a few pieces on the bread, which had absorbed the flavor of the greasy skin.
That hot sauce was far more than an afterthought. The tangy, vinegar-heavy sauce is, to me, the taste of the South — as transportive, if not more so, than the iconic fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens on which it is liberally dashed.
By the time I was done, the papers on my desk were oil-stained, and I'd spent 15 minutes tearing every last morsel of meat from bone. It might have been the most satisfying un-sandwich fried chicken sandwich I've ever had. And it was well worth slowing down for.