Terrell passed yesterday.
I saw him a few weeks ago. His daughter, Georgia, called me on a Wednesday night. “Daddy’s in the hospital,” she said. “If you want to see him the doctors say you have 24-48 hours.” I got in the car.
He was not in good shape. But he was funny. And funny when you’re feeling piss poor is a pretty amazing accomplishment. And he was funny at the most amazing moments. During my visit, we almost lost him. Georgia and I waited in the hallway while a squadron of nurses rushed in and out with machines. There were scary sounds. When the nurses called us back in, Terrell was in bed. Georgia was relieved. “Don’t you scare me like that again, Daddy,” she said. Terrell looked at her and paused. “The next time I am dying,” he drawled. “I will try to do it more quietly.”
The morning I left, I drove through the Hardees and brought him breakfast. We sat there, just the two of us, and we knew it would be the last time I would see him. “Did I ever send you that recipe for Yoder’s Chicken?” he asked. “I don’t believe you did,” I said. “I’ll send it along to you,” he promised.
I gave him a kiss and told him I would see him later. And I walked out.
I don’t even remember when I met Terrell. He’s just always been in my life. I know at first he felt sorry for me. Here I was this transplanted Yankee who didn’t know anything really important. Terrell felt it was his duty to educate me on Southern foodways and traditions. I was an eager student. “You know, sugah,” he would say after one of our lessons. “You might just be a Southerner yet.”
Terrell schooled me well. He told me of the old ways, when you butchered hogs in the fall and ate the brains and tenderloins fresh because they couldn’t be cured. He brought me cookbooks, one from his mother and another on canning. “Terrell,” I said, “I don’t know if I can learn to put up vegetables.” He looked at me with a pitiful expression. “Sure, you can, sugah,” he said. I am embarrassed to say that I have not cracked the canning book.
I should say here that there are many many people who were very close to Terrell.
He kind of got a “do over” in the barbecue community. I don’t think he would mind me saying that some phases of his life were happier than others. But in the barbecue world, he was completely blissful. He found a second son in Steve Ownby. He was very close to my friend, Mary Ann, who was also the recipient of much of Terrell’s wisdom and is absolutely besotted with the corn scraper he gave her. And then there was Howard. I have written about Howard, a renowned travel agent in Beverly Hills who forged a completely unique bond with Terrell. They couldn’t have been more
different and yet they were two peas in a pod. Honestly, I do not remember if it was Terrell who goaded Howard into eating his first Krystal, but I’m quite sure he was there when it happened. Howard would make the cross-country trip to Dillard every year, partly because he loves barbecue but mostly because he loved Terrell.
I realize I’m at risk of leaving out the legions of folks who loved Terrell. It’s kind of like an Academy Awards speech. You don’t want to leave anyone out. But you all know who you are. And we are all hurting tonight.
Last night, after I got the news from Terrell’s daughter, Georgia, I pulled out the canning book.
Some loose papers fell out of it. I had forgotten that Terrell had also sent me some recipes. And there it was. Yoder’s Chicken. Somehow he had found a way to get it to me after all.
God speed, sweet prince. And eat all the salt you want.
Yoder’s Chicken (exactly as Terrell sent it to me)
1 frying chicken, cut up
1 cup milk
Blend together following: 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons seasoned salt, 1/2 cup instant potato flakes or powder.
Dip chicken pieces in egg/milk mixture. Roll chicken in flour mixture. Deep fry @ 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until brown. Transfer to a baking dish and bake uncovered for about 1 hour, or until tender. Bake @ 325 degrees.