Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When Chickens Fly

When I was young and our church scheduled a revival, it would usually start on a Sunday and end on the following Friday. It was the custom in the church my Dad pastored to go and eat at a different person's house each of those days along with the guest speaker for the revival and the guest music director. These leaders who came in for the week usually stayed in our home while there and it was a delightful time for me because most of the men that my Dad would invite had really wonderful senses of humor and loved to play jokes on each other.

However, one of my most memorable experiences occurred one Sunday when we all joined a family in our church who were, putting it mildly, snobs. They were the picture of the "upper crust" in our church. Fancy clothing, fancy homes, lots of money and fancy manners were all part of their 'image'. We were scheduled to eat with them on Sunday this particular year. They always chose Sunday so they could lay out their fanciest Sunday best table cloths,silverware and china. There were forks for each course of the meal arranged just so beside the plates. At times, there might be as many as four forks, three spoons and a knife beside each plate. This was daunting enough for the adults and quite overwhelming to my brother and me as kids. We were not accustomed to very much "fine dining"! But we tried hard because we wanted to make our Dad proud and save ourselves from any embarrassment.

Because we had eaten with these people many times before on Sundays, we warned the unsuspecting preacher and music minister that this was "high class" dining and that the best thing to do was to watch the host and just do whatever he did. I think we talked about it so much that the guests were really intimidated at the aspect of going to dine with this family. Of course, we told them what would be on the menu: barbecued chicken! Is there anything more messy to eat when fine dining than barbecued chicken?

We were all on our best behavior. There was none of the usual friendly banter going back and forth. No sir, we were in "high class" surroundings now and very intent on doing things correctly. We all sat down to dinner and as the host put his white linen napkin in his lap, we all followed suit.

When he picked up his salad fork and began eating his salad, we very solemnly did the same. This was not only fine dining but dignified conversation. No one cracked a single joke like they normally would have. In fact, there wasn't much conversation at all because everyone was concentrating so hard on not embarrassing themselves and proving that they could be "fine diners", too.

The main dish came from the kitchen next, and sure enough, it was barbecued chicken just as we had predicted. There are many ways to attack barbecued chicken. For my brother and myself, this was indeed a challenge. As young as we were, we would have probably used our hands to eat this had it been at home or our mother would have helped to cut it up for us. But we knew we were now expected to eat that chicken using a knife and fork only; no fingers or hands were to touch the chicken. We waited tensely as the host took out his knife and fork. With a well practiced hand he gently speared that chicken and readied himself to cut his first bite just so.

I'll never know exactly what he did wrong but suddenly his piece of barbecued chicken slid off his plate and came flying through the air. It landed in the minister of musics' plate causing his own chicken to slide off onto the white table cloth. The host looked both shocked and embarrassed. As he struggled to maintain his dignity and at the same time to delicately recapture his chicken, my Dad and the two guests could contain themselves no longer. They began to laugh and laugh until tears were streaming down their faces. No more dignified dining; their funny bones had been ignited.

Finally,seeing there was no way to recover his dignity when he had made such a faux pas, the host let down his guard and began to laugh, too. After all, how could he cover that one up? We all laughed until our sides hurt. What started out as stuffy "high dining" had now turned into a delightful and relaxed meal, filled with delightful conversation.

Thereafter, whenever we ate at this home, the host and his wife were no longer stuffy and dignified but friendly and funny. And all it took to accomplish their complete change of behavior forever, or at least as long as we lived there and continued to eat with them, was one flying chicken!

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