Tag Archives: family dinners

Saturday night supper

I’ve written previously about our favorite takeout meal, but most of the time Mom cooked for us on the weekends. When I was in high school, I had a part-time job at Alin’s Party Supply and Dad was working as a security guard. We both worked all day Saturday, so when we came home, we were starving.

One of our favorite Saturday suppers was when Mom made chili. Mom was no gourmet chef, but having been born and raised on a farm, she knew her way around a kitchen and how to cook up family-pleasing meals. The chili was one of those all-day affairs, where you let it simmer for hours on end. Dad and I would each have a heaping bowl, topped with shredded cheese and green onions, and would usually end up going back for seconds.

The battle was over the cornbread twists.

These were not homemade, just a product out of one of those twist-pop cans from Pillsbury. My mom certainly was capable of making real cornbread, and did on other occasions. (No sugar or egg, just like the way her mother made it.) But once these cornbread twists were on the market, they were such a hit with Dad and I that Mom didn’t have to worry about making cornbread from scratch anymore.

You could make them as the traditional twists or you could take two of them, wrap them together, and turn them into muffins. Mom says I told her, “Yeah, those are good, but Dad eats too many that way. Just make the twists.”

I guess Mom was having a nostalgic moment recently and wondered if Pillsbury still made the cornbread twists. I checked for her and they don’t, but from reading the numerous online comments, we weren’t the only family that enjoyed them. Hopefully wherever Dad is now, he can eat his fill of those cornbread twists along with a heaping bowl of chili.

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A favorite family meal

My mom cooked many memorable dishes over the years that my dad and I would devour eagerly, but when we wanted take-out, we gravitated to Pioneer Chicken. I have such vivid memories of the simple joy of sinking my teeth into the extra crunchy batter, which seemed to have a hint of nutmeg, and letting the greasy coating and the meat almost melt into my mouth. The quirky logo is forever burned into my brain, and the heavenly smell and taste of that fried chicken is one of my fonder childhood memories.

My mom would call the order in and my dad would go to pick it up. My stomach would be growling with anticipation. We would always order white meat and breasts and drumsticks, no pesky wings. There were fluffy rolls and mashed potatoes with gravy, but they were easily forgotten. After a brief supper prayer, all hands descended upon the golden chicken and a series of slurps, smacks and chewing ensued.

But the best part of those fried chicken meals was the fact that my dad was always worried about his cholesterol, despite being at least a pack-a-day smoker. So he would “discard” his crispy chicken skin onto a plate in the middle of the table, and my mom and I would help ourselves to those greasy, calorie-laden bits of yumminess. Afterwards, we would rip open the lemon-scented hand wipes that came with the meal and erase the grease from our hands, while we enjoyed the lingering effects of our food comas.

Alas, “real” fried chicken will forever be a memory for me, as I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease years ago and have to be on a gluten-free diet. And I have naturally gravitated to a more vegetarian diet over the years. But as a child, Pioneer Fried Chicken was the ultimate junk food. I definitely preferred it over a McDonald’s happy meal. Food can definitely bring a family together.

And if I’ve whetted anyone’s appetite for the Pioneer Chicken experience, The franchise was sold in the 1990’s and most locations were converted into Popeye’s stores. But there are still a few Pioneer locations open in California, though I’ve heard some are not offering the authentic fried chicken recipe. Where can you find the real Pioneer Chicken? In China, where the chain goes by the name, “California Chicken.”

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