We eat the best meals with family and friends, we cook the best meals for family and friends

12 mins read

I have been thinking about writing this since I drafted my first article, but hesitated both because I wasn’t sure I could get the feelings across and because there are folks out there for whom the pandemic has changed their lives in ways I cannot fathom.

I have been blessed to be able to work from home, keep my job and not lose any friends/family to covid-19. I may not have seen my 87 year old Momma in a year & a half (which is the longest in my 50 years that I have ever gone without seeing her), but she is safe and vaccinated. Despite being thankful for these blessings, there is something so essential to who I am that has been missing for far too long.

Going back to my childhood, Sunday supper was a meal that always required extra plates at the table. Sunday supper wasn’t a meal that we sat down to and went back to playing outside, homework or turned the TV on twenty-minutes after the food arrived at the table. It was a meal where we lingered, visited, laughed and talked about anything and everything. It was a meal where folks sometimes stopped in just to visit or maybe joined us for dessert. It was less structured than a dinner party and a chance to decompress and prepare ourselves for the upcoming week.

The Sunday table was where I really learned about people—their history, hopes and worries, stories, jokes, and personalities. It was a meal where if I was quiet enough, the adults might forget I was there and tell stories they weren’t quite ready for me to hear. When I think of my best memories of loved ones who have passed, many of them center around those Sundays.

In this instance, the meal is the excuse to invite people. It is the attraction, and it’s the glue that creates the lingering togetherness. In the most important way, Sunday supper isn’t actually about the food, but is about the moment the meal creates. More often than not, what I prepare on Sunday is slow-cooked comfort food. I make dishes like pot roast, spaghetti bolognese or chicken and dumplings. These are dishes that are accessible to a wide variety of folks, allow the cook to get out of the kitchen and can be easily reheated if the conversation gets good and your plate goes cold.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am a big “E” extrovert and one of the hardest things for me over this last year is not feeling it was safe to invite people over for supper. I always cook more than enough for the four of us, so why not have a few folks join us? My husband stopped questioning years ago when I asked him to add another plate or two to the table.

When the lockdown started, I was still cooking on Sunday like there was a houseful of people, so we did meal delivery or offered pickup for friends and family. A socially distanced conversation in the driveway was better than not seeing each other at all, and like our pre-pandemic Sunday suppers, the food was an excuse to get together. As the weather got warmer, my husband set up outside spaces and built a fire pit where we could gather safely with friends and family. We figured out how to make outside gatherings work as best we could.

On Easter we had our first outside gathering of 2021. For me, Easter is the symbol of Sunday suppers. Even though I didn’t grow up attending church, Easter Sunday was always special. I’ve been thinking about why I know this to be true and the best explanation I can arrive at is because it is a holiday and more people are willing to interrupt their busy lives and take the time to just be together.

I don’t cook Southern food as often as you might imagine, but Easter Sunday supper calls for it. Because I am the rare Southerner who doesn’t care for ham, I associate Easter with fried chicken. This Easter Sunday’s promising weather meant I could cook outside which is even better. Remembering that the meal is the excuse and the glue that makes folks linger, we set up the outdoor stove so I could cook, while also being included in the conversation.

In my experience we eat the best meals with family and friends and we cook the best meals for family and friends. Easter Sunday supper was a highlight for me & I am hopeful for more opportunities to have Sundays together again.



3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Cornmeal
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ teaspoon Onion Powder
¼ teaspoon Pepper
1 Egg
1 cup Buttermilk

Preheat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet to 365F degrees. In a medium sized mixing bowl add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and pepper. Add the egg and buttermilk and stir until combined.
Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls in the hot oil. Let cook until they are golden brown 2-3 minutes. Remove with a metal strainer on a paper towel lined plate.

Fried Chicken

NOTE: I’m lazy when it comes to frying chicken. Frying a cut up whole chicken requires time management skills I don’t always possess. Most of the time to keep things simple, I choose one cut of chicken. Sunday it was boneless skinless chicken thighs. Dark meat because it has more flavor and boneless so leftovers can be easily used to make sandwiches.

3-4 lbs of chicken (your choice on the cut)
3-4 cups of oil for frying (I like Peanut oil-450F smoke point, but any oil with a high enough smoke point will work- Canola-400F, Corn (450F) or Vegetable (400F).


Fried chicken

2 cups Buttermilk
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp White Pepper (Black Pepper works too)

2 cups All Purpose Flour
½ cup Corn Starch
1 ½ tsp salt

In a bowl, combine the wet mix with your chicken, ensuring it’s fully coated by the marinade. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours (24 hours is better). Remove at least 30 mins before you intend to use it to bring to room temp.
Combine all of your dry mix. I find this easiest in a large ziplock bag. Drop chicken into the mix and shake to coat. Place coated chicken on a tray and repeat with the remaining pieces. Letting your chicken rest with the coating on it helps the coating bond with the chicken so it won’t fall off later.
Heat up enough oil to comfortably cover the depth of your largest piece of chicken.. You want the oil to be 350F -356F. The temp will drop when the chicken hits the oil, and that’s okay, just try to maintain a heat of around 320F. A medium heat should obtain this.
In batches of 3-4 pieces gently place your chicken in the oil, making sure you add similar sized pieces so they cook at an even rate. Deep fry for 6-8mins on each side or until deep golden and white through the center. If you’re not confident deep frying just test with one piece first.
Place each piece on a wire rack with paper towels underneath when finished. The chicken should be piping hot with the juices running clear.

Fried Fish

½ cup All Purpose Flour
½ cup Cornstarch
½ cup Rice Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Sugar
½ teaspoon Salt
1 egg
12 ounce can lager-style beer
2-3 pounds fish fillets of your choice (I used Sauger which is a cousin to the Walleye & my favorite freshwater fish from childhood)
oil for frying

Dry fish filets with paper towel and dust with rice flour. This will absorb any excess moisture and allow the batter to better adhere. Combine AP flour, cornstarch, soda, baking powder, sugar and salt.
Beat egg and combine with beer before incorporating with the dry ingredients to make smooth batter.
Oil should be between 350F and 375F. Shake any excess rice flour off filet before dipping in the batter and fry until golden brown.

Ashley Montgomery is a native Southerner with a deep love for collard greens, hot buttered biscuits and sweet tea. She married a boy from Maine, works at UMF and calls Wilton her home. She loves cooking, feeding people, learning about other folk’s food traditions and will eventually stop being afraid of pressure cookers.

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