As I sat completely frustrated that the internet was down a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me how much things have changed in just the past 30 years. I was at the shop. I was being productive. Answering emails, filing invoices, organizing and most importantly paying the bills. I was moving right along until suddenly the dreaded “No internet” message appears. *HUFF* Now what? I have got to get this done, I mean what am I supposed to do now?!?!?
My mind started wandering. I remember riding to town with my grandparents to pay bills. It never seemed strange at the time. We would travel here and there. They would go in, pay the bill and head to the next location. Now it seemed so foreign. What on earth do I do, where would I go? I gathered the bills and looked at them. Sure enough, as I figured out where each place was, they were all within walking distance. I could literally go out and PAY bills. I mean, who does that? Nevertheless, I remembered the basic principal so I was certain I could pull it off.
With my checkbook and bills in hand, I slipped on my tennis shoes and sat out to pay bills. I started down the street. The first thing I noticed was that the morning air was beautiful! I breathed deeply and was overjoyed to find we were getting a welcome break from the summer’s heat. Where should I go first? I started with the rent, the power bill, the water bill, the bank, the post office. It was so ENJOYABLE. I talked to a dozen people about various things. I didn’t rush, I didn’t say I was in a hurry. I asked people how they were and updated them on all things Alabama Sunshine. I saw a stray kitty. He was orange and wonderful. I talked to the lady that feeds him every day. He meowed and rolled at her feet although he stills shies away from human touch. She joked that I should take him. “he seems perfectly happy with you, I said smiling back at her.” She shared that he usually comes later in the day, but she was so glad he came early today because the homecoming parade later in the day was bound to scare him. I passed the flower shops and local clothing shops. All proudly announce upcoming showers for those getting married or having a baby. I talk to a person about a recent death in their family. I watch as the local female inmates decorate the streets with Fall décor. They do a WONDERFUL job. I say hello but somehow wish I had time to hear their stories.
My heart was smiling as I strolled back toward the shop. I decided, since I had extra time, to make a couple of extra laps through downtown. It was a truly enjoyable journey. I thought how blessed I am to live in a place where I could walk and pay bills. I connected with my fellow human beings. I didn’t stare blankly at a computer screen and furrow my brow at my dwindling bank account. In fact, I paid the bills without much worry at all. It was people I thought about as I headed back to the shop. Life and REAL people. It reminded me that some of the old ways were probably a pretty darn good idea. So, my advice to you is this. Step away from the computer. Take a walk. Talk to a human. It is completely refreshing and I almost forgot.
Somedays I forget how perfectly lovely it is to live in a small town. Walking to pay bills certainly reminded me of that.
Growing up in the south you become accustomed to all sorts of phrases. Whenever you are a fixin to do something you might go on over yonder before you start. Make sure when you get there ya’ll tell ya mama an ‘em hey before you travel on down the road a piece. It will take you by surprise at times if you happen upon a stranger that stares at you blankly when you proclaim yuns better head on in, there’s a bad cloud on hand!
It’s true, I figured out quickly, in farming that you will be confused many times. I imagine our adventure into farming must be like that of city folk from up north that move down here and can’t quite figure out what the heck we are talking about!
We are in the middle of another bountiful pepper harvest. It has been quite a trial with all the rain. We have fought fungus, pests and grass to a level I can’t explain this year. I mean, if grass were a weapon we would be witnessing the apocalypse!! Despite it all, we keep getting peppers galore.
In the middle of all the farm chaos, a remodel of the old farmhouse my grandparents lived in began. The farm is coming to life again. I have stopped many times to wonder what my grandparents would think about their little home place being turned into a bustling pepper farm. My grandmother was a housewife all the years I remember her. She cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner. She kept the home and fed my pony. A pony I had mostly for the reason that I was the only girl grandchild and I am sure I stated that I wanted one.
I remember spending the night at my grandparents many times. I would wake to the smell of bacon, eggs, biscuits and tomato gravy. Now tomato gravy is a science….. I am still trying to get it right #failsofar. We would eat breakfast and Grandma would gather a separate plate for the pony. I would follow her out to the pasture. Patty Pony, as she was affectionately known, would gladly greet us. My grandmother would talk to that pony and feed her biscuits, eggs, tomato gravy and cantaloupe! Now, as unbelievable as this sounds the pony loved it. Every morning I spent there as a child started that exact same way. Now you may ask me if that is a proper diet for a pony and I can tell you that it is NOT. However, nobody told Patty Pony that and she lived a long happy life.
My Grandmother filled my Grandfathers tea glass for him, fixed his plate and always cleaned up after the meal. I never thought to ask her if she wanted to do something else. If she did, she didn’t show it. She lovingly did the same chore as long as my Grandfather was alive. My Grandfather known to all us kids as “PA” was quite a character. You didn’t have to wonder what PA was thinking because it was coming out of his mouth in about 2.3 seconds. He was a veteran of the Army, a cabinet maker, a cattle farmer, gardener, a deacon in his church and a barber. Yes, I said a barber. In back of my grandparents’ house was a shop. In that shop, amongst the wood working tools sat a barber chair. Every Saturday morning a strange phenomenon would occur. Early every Saturday morning lines of trucks would start filing down the driveway. Men would drive to my Grandfather’s shop in search of a haircut.
Now to say my grandparents lived down the road a piece, is an understatement. It’s a place you are not going to happen upon. Nobody ever comes there by accident. If you drive down that driveway, you have gone to some effort and you intend to be there. I watched the haircut parade out the window. They arrived in trucks. My Grandfather would get up out of his chair and walk out to meet them. Now I never once remember PA advertising his “haircuts on Saturday” business. He had no facebook, no Instagram, not as much as text or a tweet. Nevertheless, they came. For several hours he would cut hair and the men would stay and talk. I witnessed this many times. I would quietly play and watch PA cut hair. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversations. Only that most of them revolved around community goings on or church. Now the best part was when the last haircut customer had gone. I would sit in the barber chair and spin! It was amazing. It had a hand pump on the side. What an amazing chair. A wonder to a small child. You could go up and down and spin around and around!
I never asked PA where he learned to cut hair. He always had a job he was working on. Cattle always needed tending to, the big gardens required constant maintenance and many people in the community still have “Victor cabinets” in their house. He was practical beyond measure and it was common to hear him use the phrase “There ain’t no sense in that” when he witnessed extravagance of any type.
I find myself thinking about him a lot lately. When everything is hitting the fan around us I often try to think what PA might say or do in a similar situation. We are going full steam ahead. Business is growing, peppers need picking and there are new bigger places we hope to take Alabama Sunshine in the near future. We hope you will join us as we travel down the road a piece into the future. Who knows, we might even learn to make tomato gravy!
When you plant something it seems natural that you would think it is going to grow. I mean why would you plant it and expect nothing? So, all those many weeks ago when we planted 3,587 pepper plants I knew there would be peppers at some point. Right? Yes, sure I did….I mean sort of.
So I confess my frustration at my own reaction when I gazed out at the fields a little over 3 weeks ago. “Crap! We need to pick.” A flood of panic washed over me. You see the great harvest brings with it a multitude of challenges. The change in schedule. It is approximately 105* in Alabama from about 9am to 9pm SOOOO, you wake before daylight to begin picking AT daylight. We work early, we work late, we don’t have time for all that needs to be done. It is dirty, hot and difficult work.
I am thoroughly convinced that I could put an end to most of the foolishness in this world by putting some people in the pepper patch. I have tested this theory with my own children. It proves 100% effective at ending foolishness and backtalk. I mean I should charge other people for that service! I have thought of ways to spin this, “Agricultural experience available! Cures sass mouthing kids, trouble makers and cures boredom” seems like the right way to word it.
When you pick peppers you have to find a place where you are fully committed to getting the job done and completely willing to ignore discomfort. That hold true in life so many times I think. When we face something uncomfortable we have a decision to make. Commit and move forward or stand there and site 100 reasons why you can’t. Now at times in my life I have done both. So, I understand the struggle.
Agriculture, it seems, has a way of stripping away the excuses and saying “choose… either move now or lose out in the future.” Harvest waits for no man or woman or tired pepper picker. We face this new harvest with more knowledge. We have learned a little, listened a lot and hold on to the hope that we might still yet be worthy of the title “Farmer” If I would ever be so lucky to earn that title I would count myself blessed. I have gained so much respect for those who farm and feed this country. I fully admit that a reading of Paul Harvey’s “So God Made A Farmer” will dissolve me into the ugly cry. So obviously that is a step in the right direction!
I look forward to what this harvest brings us and can’t wait to share it with you.
Well, it’s been a year. Exactly a year. We have gone around the sun once as owners of Alabama Sunshine hot sauce company. We’ve seen 365 days and nights and what a journey it has been.
I am reminded of the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” as I think back on our journey. Although we weren’t prisoners as they were in the movie we were certainly chained together in a sort of journey, an odyssey. Though we might not be in search of a treasure per say, the treasure, in a way was to grasp the knowledge of a small farming business, take it by the reins and guide it to new destinations and heights. Just as in the movie we have faced many a startlement along the way!
In farming, you can face many a trial all at once. Too much water, not enough water, pests, crops that under produce, crops that over produce and you can’t keep up with. In a busy kitchen, you can boil over a 40-gallon kettle of hot sauce in a hot minute (no pun intended) if you aren’t careful. Yes, we did it, yes it was a huge startlement and an utter MESS to clean up! We have laughed at a call from a customer who has bought the same product for over 20 years who states “send me that stuff you always send.” Ummm, WAIT, what stuff? What does it look like? Can you describe the label?? It’s a dance in a way to run a farm, run a business, cook, market and stay in touch with customers. A journey, I will admit dear friends has reduced me to tears on both the drive TO and FROM work several days. I have moments of thinking “we’ll never get there. I’m lost on this journey!” It seems at those moments on your journey that just the right person is sent into your path to guide your way. We have come up against bigger and better funded campaigns and often felt like the underdog fighting the incumbent. However, we have stayed the course.
There is something about a year that makes you reflect. We can take a deep breath, look back, and say WOW! We came we journeyed, we learned and we continue to press onward. It is with great and humble thanks we appreciate all of you have been so supportive and spread the word about Alabama Sunshine. We thank those who have come along side us to work. Many hard days without much OR ANY pay and keep coming back to offer help day after day. SO, we look to the future with great hope. We have on the horizon a new facility. Room to grow and expand to 3 bottling lines. We have new product ideas! Stay tuned for that……(SUSPENSE ADDS STYLE). We haven’t yet seen a cow on the top of a cotton house. Although you never know what you might see around here! We face the future unafraid of the obstacles in our path. We have seen things wonderful to tell and more than once proclaimed “who’s the leader of this here outfit?!?!?!” One thing we know for certain is we can’t wait to share the future with YOU!!
“You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first... first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a... a cow... on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation.” ~ Blind Seer “Oh brother where art thou”
I realized after moving back to small town America how often the directions we give are quite confusing to others who aren’t familiar with the area. We start out with phrases like “You know down there where the Jack’s used to be?” or “turn right down yonder passed so and so’s Grandma’s house” It makes perfect sense to those familiar with the area and of course the giver of the directions knows perfectly well where they mean. However, to the unfamiliar traveler or someone who isn’t sure who so and so’s Grandma is, it can be quite confusing.
So it is with most things in life. When you are familiar with your circumstances and know your way it is much easier to take directions. It is not so easy to understand directions on farming when you are an ex preschooler Special Ed teacher turned farmer/business person. I found myself in yet another unfamiliar situation as I observed a broken part on the tractor.
I have never known such a fragile piece of equipment as a tractor. In my observation something is always broke, or fixin’ to break at any moment. This is a complete mystery to me. I suspect a plot hatched up between tractor salesmen and tractor PART salesmen but that is another story… As we stared at the broken piece on the tractor it is described to me as a link adjustment. “Ok. Well, how do we fix that?” the process is described and the “run to town” made and the part purchased. Now for those of you who don’t live out in the country let me explain how this works. A tractor never breaks at a convenient time or in a convenient place. While you “run to town”, a trip that takes at least an hour because we are 25 minutes from ANYWHERE, the tractor remains smack dab in the middle of the driveway. Now a broken tractor is something like a beacon to other farmers in the area. It seems to call out, “come look at me being broken! Give advice on how to fix me and parts to buy!” So before getting back with the part at least 5 people had come by to make sure the problem was diagnosed properly. Each on looker gives an opinion and advice until you are utterly confused. Now as we began trying to get the old part off it becomes apparent that there is about 60 years of dirt and grime that are most likely holding the tractor together and most of that will end up on your shirt.
I will readily admit, I was mostly an observer in this process. My dad describes how to properly replace the part, my brother grunts and struggles and hands me bolts to hold. I was pretty good at that part………Eventually we get the part replaced and up and running once again. I add the instructions on how to replace a link adjustment on a tractor to my skill set and we continue on.
I am getting more comfortable with farm life as we go and the directions and instructions get less and less confusing. I suppose it’s like anything else in life. If you are in the middle of a driveway with a broke tractor in your life, fake it ‘til you make it!! Hang in there because eventually it will all make sense! Even if you have to figure out where the old Jack’s used to be before you start.
Except I don’t know how…….
I have found over the past year I have used this phrase a lot. “I don’t know how to do that.” You see, when I bought a business with my brother I was excited about the BUSINESS part. I didn’t realize all the OTHER bits that came along with the business. I quickly realized that small business owners are mostly super heroes with concealed capes. They fix their own broken equipment, they repair leaks, toilets, doors, windows, tractors (YES, tractors) and anything else that could possibly break and break things have. At least something once a week…. (Insert sigh.) This week was no exception. As I walked back through the kitchen I slipped and slid ice skater style, “OH CRAP!” now dear ones, you may be saying to yourself “she said something besides crap.” You might be right but I’ll never tell! There was water spraying into the air, across the three compartment sink as if we were trying to do an impression of the fountains at the Bellagio!! I rushed to turn it off, no luck. I twisted and turned hoping the spraying would stop. NOPE. As I stood in front of our latest challenge the thought occurred to me how many “I don’t know how to…” have turned into “I know how to….” I have been faced with every challenge you can think of. Each situation was unique. I have gained skills I never thought I would have or even that I wanted but now that I DO have them, they are valuable. When I think of it that way is frustrates me less and makes me a little proud. It’s the kind of knowledge nobody can teach you. Life has to teach it to you. Experience has to teach it to you. So, now when I face a new challenge I find myself thinking, “I have to figure out how to.” That’s a good thing. It’s sometimes a scary thing, but I have found that the growth and learning doesn’t really occur in the comfortable places. It occurs in the uncertainty. In the scary places. When I was looking at our new “learning experience” spraying water all over the kitchen, I started brainstorming ideas. I am not afraid to ask for help. Yet another thing I have gotten better at this year. My dad is a good problem solver. An engineer for over 30 years, he tried to help me repair it first. No luck…so he instructs me to start looking for something that can deflect the water down. That would be great since we are about to be swimming! We fiddle with this and that and get the spray slowed down from Bellagio level to annoying level. Next step, deflect downward instead of upward and floorward! We settle on a funnel over the hose and slid down to cover the leaking bits. HA! Success. My dad chuckles that he has an engineering degree and just had to fix a sink with a funnel. I chuckle because we solved the problem and saved the budget for at least one month because faucets for industrial sinks are PRICEY! We both smile and move on to the next task. So stay strong fellow humans! We are all struggling to find solutions for the day to day. The point is, whatever you face in your day start finding a way to say “I have to figure out how to…” I bet you can figure out a solution. Even if it’s just a temporary one that gets you to the next month!
We had a chance once again last week to debut a new product on Talk of Alabama morning show! Sassy pineapple jam. It is delicious. Everyone who tries it has given rave reviews. It was the wonderful creation of our beloved jelly queen, Janet. As I found myself prepping Friday morning for our t.v. spot I was missing my jelly queen. The message she sent me the night before read as follows, “love you more…you go sell that sassy pineapple!” You see, there are some days that are great and some days you wish you could forget. A week ago, the Alabama Sunshine family had one of those days we wish we could forget.
In the past year of owning this business I have had several of both. I find life whizzing by me at the speed of light and for a while I would say things to people like, “ok, when I can.” Or “when work slows down I will try to” Then I realized the place we live is in the midst. In the midst of the chaos and the busy is the extraordinary. The everyday special will pass you by if you don’t take time to enjoy it now. When I look back at this year I see times I have recognized that and times I have been completely blinded by chaos and let precious moments pass me by. We have celebrated triumphs and suffered defeat but at least we’ve done it and we are still hanging on. We have laughed and we have cried and somehow in the midst we manage to live life.
So I leave you with this. Do the things you think you don’t have time for. Go, be bold, tell others you care, love BIG. Because you see, our time here is short. If you lose yourself in the midst you will miss the best parts. This week we remember one gone far too soon and we let it be a reminder to us all. Life is precious and never to be taken for granted. R.I.P. Mike, you made our jelly queen smile and for that we are eternally grateful! We know you are looking down on us and probably already passed along the recipe for sassy pineapple in heaven’s kitchen!
I own a thoroughbred. Well, now 2, but that’s a detail for later. You see, When a thoroughbred is young they take lots of preparation to make things go right. Or right…ish or at least right adjacent. As we planted almost 5,000 pepper plants this week I started to think about the similarities between pepper farming and horse training.
The whole thing is a gamble. You look at the upcoming year with anticipation of what might be. You see the work ahead, the potential problems and you make the best decision you can based on the knowledge you have at the moment. With horses this can be a lot of fun. Well, fun is a loose term, but it can definitely be an adventure. My first thoroughbred was 3 when I bought him. He was big, unpredictable and occasionally just down right stupid. When he gets it right though, he is majestic. A real looker…He knows how to shine and, when he does, he is a winner. Many hours of training and preparation go into hoping that at the right moment he will produce. We have great moments of triumph and moments where I lay on the ground asking God, why was it again I bought a wild beast that disguised itself as a big red horse?
Now this is my first year as a farmer but I have experienced many of the same emotions pepper farming as I have watching that big red horse. The fields are prepped and ready. The plants are babies. We carefully place them in the soil and we wait. It’s difficult work. It’s hot, it’s dirty, seems never ending when you are staring at 5,000 plants.
Somehow though in the midst of all the dirt and work and sore muscles there is hope. You look at the field as you plant row by row and you hope. I hope you grow big and beautiful and produce. Grow peppers grow! I remember my statement to a lifelong farmer last year as I looked out on my first crop. “What if they all die?!!?” I am pretty sure I have fear of failure issues but that’s another BLOG. “Oh, they won’t all die”, he replied. “You did what you were supposed to now you got to let them do what they are supposed to.” Profound…… So, it is with many things in life. You do what you are supposed to and you wait.
Last summer we had the best pepper crop according to experienced farmers that anyone had seen in years! Now the time has rolled around to plant and start anew. As I ordered plants I thought about how scary the whole process was last year and smiled a little as I waited on delivery of our little fields of hope this year.
Now you may be wondering where that 2nd thoroughbred I mentioned comes into play. Well, a few months back we started to horse shop with my youngest daughter. She has sadly outgrown her beloved pony. Best pony that has ever or will ever live! As we started looking I vividly remember the conversation with her trainer. “We don’t mind something young, a project. She’s up for the challenge but hey, one thing, NO THOROUGHBREDS.” Even though I love our big red boy, who is now 10, I have been down that road. I know better. I have matured.
So when I got the picture one night of a cute bay baby OTTB (that’s an off the track thoroughbred for those that want to know my exact level of insanity) I would be lying if I didn’t admit to screaming, “WHY?!?!” out loud before saying, “Ok, yep. Let’s look at him.” He is fabulous. A baby, fresh and full of potential. Hope on four legs. As I agreed to purchase him I laughed at myself. I am crazy, it’s a gamble. Just like those pepper plants we are going to do what we are supposed to do and let him do what he’s supposed to do.
As we approach a brand new freshly set out field of hope this year I am a little less scared and a little more excited. So, do whatever it is that scares you. Take a gamble, set out that field in your own life you never know what it’s going to grow into. Heck, buy a horse! If it’s a thoroughbred though, call me first, I got LOTS of stories about that!
Since I became a small business owner, there have been many moments that have surprised me. Probably none more than a late afternoon call asking about gourmet syrup that we carry in the shop from time to time.
I was getting ready to leave when a phone call came in. I decided to answer and what an adventure it lead me on! “Hello mam, I want some good ‘ole sorghum syrup”. Now growing up in small town Alabama, I did know what sorghum was and we happened to have some. “Yes, sir. We have some right here and we will be open in the morning.” Since it was already past closing time I thought surely in the morning was a good offer. “Well mam, you see, I am blind and will have to find a ride into town so it may take me a few days. Do you like good ‘ole sorghum? It’s the only REAL old time syrup. You see, syrup used to come in a can. Do you remember syrup in a can?” No sir, I can’t say that I do. Sorghum isn’t my favorite but I have tasted it before.
Now if you HAVEN’T tasted sorghum before, it is difficult to describe. Somewhere between sucking on wood chips while smelling a rag soaked in turpentine comes to mind, but I digress. If a person loves Sorghum, they love it and that’s that. So I proceeded to tell my elderly caller I would sit some back for him until he could get a ride. “Well, if I can get there I will let you know but I sure do love me some sorghum.” Now here’s the part where it gets interesting. In a moment of heart-string weakness, I blurt out, “I could bring it to you sir…if you really like it that much I could deliver if you are close to town.” Now why I did that I may never know. I could hear excitement in his voice. “OH MY GOODNESS!! I would love that I could have good ‘ole sorghum for dinner tonight. You know syrup used to come in a can.” Yes sir, I remember you said that. He proceeded to give me directions. Now carefully remember the part from earlier where I said he was BLIND.
So I stand there with Sorghum, pen in one hand about to take directions forma blind man. “Well, you go like you might be a going out of town.” Good start. “Then when you pass that old plant but it ain’t a plant no more you turn left on the paved road. Then go a piece and take the second dirt road. When you do that keep going until you see a road that don’t look like nothing on the left and that’ll be my driveway.” So armed with those as my directions I head out. What could possibly go wrong? Believe it or not in about 15 minutes there I sat at a road that didn’t really look like nothing that I assumed was the driveway. I slowly proceeded down the drive.
It was an older small farm with collections of this and that on either side. I noticed a sign up ahead. Oh good, maybe a helpful name. I could possibly confirm I am in the right place. As I got closer the sign read, TRESSPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT. Hmmmm…I I thought about this for a second. I wasn’t REALLY a trespasser. I was invited and I did have the good ‘ole sorghum with me soooooo it’s probably ok. I decide in the spirit of adventure to press on. I come to a small house that looks like over the years it’s been added on to accommodate this and that. It looks like thoughtfully arranged legos which are painted whatever might have pleased it’s designer at the time. Or maybe the paint was on sale.
I recall the part where my elderly friend is indeed blind and it makes more sense. I get out of the car and have a flash of “I wish I had told someone where I was going….” Too late. I knock on the door and hear what sounds to be a small terrier dog who is under the impression that it is a Doberman pincer! No answer. I call the number I have on my scratched out directions. “Hello? HUSH PATRICIA! HUSH PATRICIA! ” I can hear him shushing the pint sized beast both through the phone and through the walls. Hi, this is Julie from Alabama Sunshine. I think I am out front with your syrup. “OH, GOOD.. I’ll be right there” I hear footsteps and breathe a sigh of relief. Adventure over, I thought. Then he opened the door. Out dashed pint sized Patricia yapping and barking and growling at my feet.
A little slight man that might weigh 100 pounds soaking wet. He was stooped over and is indeed feeling his way around the door handle before he steps onto the porch. Then I see it. There, on his hip, in a holster is a Clint Eastwood sized revolver! Now here I am with syrup. A terrier biting at my ankles face to face with a blind man armed with a revolver! My mind flashes to the trespasser warning for a split second. “Here is your syrup.” I carefully make sure he has the jar before releasing it. “OH good ‘ole sorghum, delivered right to your door! Who could believe that! You know syrup used to come in a can.” Yes sir, you mentioned that. I told him his total and he produced the biggest folded stack of $100 dollar bills that I have ever seen and asks me to help him dig for the appropriate amount. He stumbles a little sideways and I whisper a prayer that he doesn’t fall setting off the Western movie sized revolver.
We get the money sorted out and I tell him I hope he enjoys the sorghum. “Oh, I can’t thank you enough. I am so looking forward to dinner tonight! Good ‘ole sorghum and biscuits. PATRICIA! PATRICIA!! Where’s my little dog?” She’s just there to the left sir, let me get her. I gently pick up Patricia and place her inside. I tell him to have a good day and I smile and shake my head all the way back to the car.
He hasn’t called again but I sure do hope he had good ‘ole sorghum and biscuits for supper, even if it wasn’t in a can.
Sometimes life has the most unexpected moments. A moment when you just stop and say, “hang on….let me take this in a second.” This moment happened to me last week as I prepared to be on live television for the first time. The hustle and bustle was surprising, we received all kinds of instructions about what would happen. “Ok, I am ready. Got this. Whew, is it hot in here? I am sweating!”
My cousin and queen of all things jelly was with me to help me prepare so we worked busily beginning the dishes we had rehearsed so many times. Everything was rocking along until I looked for a pan. See, we were only allowed to use the pans in the studio that were specifically for their cooktop. I rummaged for a non-stick pan. There had to be one. Right?? I pulled out everything and took inventory, stock pot, sauce pan, sauté pan. NO NONSTICK PAN!. Panic washed over me. I practiced this recipe at least 20 times in the weeks past. Getting ready for this moment. I knew exactly what to do, that is, I knew exactly what to do with a non-stick pan. I glanced toward the jelly queen. “psst….no nonstick pan! I NEED it for the spicy chicken bites.” She shook her head in sympathy and looked me squarely in the face, “Roll with it! We are live in less than 10 minutes.”
Before I had a chance to absorb what she said t.v. personnel were sweetly buzzing around again. They were hooking us up with microphones and reminding us what camera to look toward and “Oh don’t trip because your microphone is attached to the floor.” Wait, who? ME? I’m sorry, did you say floor? Whoosh they were gone again. Having wisely given Janet the jelly queen the wireless mic because she needed to move around more to help me prep. There I stood, a tangle of wire at my feet. I glanced down and the theme from Deadliest catch lightly played in mind mind….”great! trip and overboard I go I thought!” I hear “We are live in 1 minute” Well, there I was. A sweaty, nervous wreck tied to the floor with no nonstick pan! As they say though, the show must go on and so it did.
Running through ideas in my head I told myself to just add a little extra oil to the pan with a pat of butter and it would work. It had to work. So, I whispered a prayer over chicken bites and pressed on. Though not as smoothly as I had practiced at home we produced spicy chicken bites right there live in living color! When it was all over everyone raved about the food and told us it was great. I was relieved it was over and untied from the floor.
At that moment, I looked around and realized “hey, we did it!” Just like in life sometimes you don’t have exactly what you need when you need it. You won’t always have a nonstick pan. You will have practiced and prepared and told yourself exactly how it would go and it won’t go that way. In those moments, you can find your courage. You may be lucky enough to have a jelly queen nearby to whisper “ROLL WITH IT” and if not, tell it to yourself.
Sometimes you gotta roll with it, say a prayer and wait for the results. When you do, you will be able to step back and say “Whew…we did it!”
Alabama Sunshine Chicken Bites
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken tenders cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 C. Alabama Sunshine hot sauce
2 C. panko bread crumbs
1/4 C grated Romano cheese
kickin' dippin sauce:
1/2 C. Alabama Sunshine cayenne pepper wing sauce
1/2 C. ranch dressing
Mix buttermilk and Alabama Sunshine hot sauce in a deep sided container. Mix panko bread crumbs and grated Romano cheese in a separate container and set aside. Soak boneless, skinless chicken bites in buttermilk and Alabama Sunshine hot sauce mixture for 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator. Remove chicken bites one at a time from buttermilk and Alabama Sunshine hot sauce mixture one at a time and dredge in panko bread crumb and Romano cheese mixture. Place chicken bites into a sprayed pan with olive oil. Brown on both sides turning once until Chicken bites are cooked through. Place onto a serving tray. Mix Alabama Sunshine wing sauce with ranch dressing. Serve alongside chicken tenders for dipping.