CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)
Bill May said he was raised a chicken-eating Methodist and I told him the chicken term was widely used, and came from the main dish served on Sunday, especially when the preacher was coming to take dinner.
The proper term was “to take dinner” at noon after morning services, or “to take supper” before evening services. The invitation, usually issued by the man of the house, was “Come and take dinner with us.”
Bill is head of the Radiologic Technology program at ICC, and our conversation stemmed from his question about “Baptist pallets,” but more on that in a minute.
I told Bill a preference for chicken wasn’t the sole province of Methodists. Among country folks and for all I know city folk as well – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other denominations – chicken was for company dinner on Sunday. When a family knew ahead of time that the preacher was coming to take dinner, only the best was served, and fried chicken topped the list, followed by chicken and dressing or chicken and dumplings.
If the preacher was expected to arrive with his wife and children, and possibly some deacons and elders and their families as well, all three chicken entrees might appear on a groaning table filled with a great variety of vegetables, two or three kinds of hot bread, and at least that many desserts. If it was needed, country ham or country fried steaks or even country sausage might be added, but the chicken still took top billing.
Preparation for the weekend feasts started on Saturday afternoon and continued when the family arose extra early Sunday morning so that everything would be ready in time to get to church for Sunday school and preaching services. Some dishes were pushed to the back of the stove to stay warm, some stored in the warming closet, and a few in the ice box or on the sill of a screened window to stay cool.
Bill said his question about Baptist pallets evolved from a conversation with Ron Phillips, dean of the Adult Education Division on the Fulton campus of ICC, and it referred to a bunch of folks visiting in his home for several days.
Making pallets on the floor when company comes is an honorable Southern tradition – and it might occur in a cabin or a mansion – because in times past it was common for visitors to stay at least over the weekend and sometimes longer.
Pallets were made with several thicknesses of homemade quilts, the quilts being a source of pride among the women who made them. Some carried quilts to church, where they were made into pallets for sleepy babies and toddlers. The practice led to a common country saying describing a friendship that goes back to childhood: “Why, I was raised on the same pallet with him (or her).”
When visiting preachers came from afar to hold or “carry on” revival services or protracted meetings, they stayed in homes in the community, which often led to the use of pallets.
So it seems to me that both the use of pallets and the fondness for chicken crossed denominational lines. After he mentioned “Baptist pallets,” I told Bill that I had also heard “hardshell pallets.”
Many denominations had – and still have – nicknames coming either from denominational leaders or from religious practices. Calvinists and Campbellites are two examples.
In the early days of their existence, a Quaker was “one who quakes,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, and a Shaker was “one who shakes.” But neither Quakers nor Shakers can claim that they are the only ones whose religious beliefs and practices led to identifying nicknames.
Phyllis Harper is Daily Journal feature editor.