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big_stone_gap_pst_2001Big Stone Gap was one of those movies my sister and I love to watch. I guess you could call them chick flicks, but to us, there’s more to it. Movies like this tell the kind of story that makes us laugh and cry…and sometimes all in the same scene.

The story takes place circa the 1970s in a small town in Virginia. Big Stone Gap considers Ave Marie Mulligan a spinster. After all, she’s forty and never been close to considering marriage, even though it’s apparent that childhood friend Jack is in love with her and has been for years. She claims the only thing he loves is his brand new truck.

She’s far too busy running the family pharmacy, being involved in her community, volunteering on the coal mining town’s Emergency Response Team, and directing the town’s annual production of “Trail of the Lonesome Pine”.

When Ave’s mother dies suddenly, she discovers Fred Mulligan is not really her father. Her mother was pregnant with another man’s child when they married. She left Ave’s father behind in Italy, but she never stopped loving him. She even kept his letters. That explains why Fred’s sister doesn’t think she should inherit the pharmacy or the house that’s been in the family for years.

Jack admits to Ave he has always had a crush on the little Italian girl that sat beside him in elementary school, and she realizes she has feelings for him. But when he blurts out they ought to get married, she’s offended.

Ashley Judd plays an independent woman who is a romantic at heart. I admire her passion for life. Whoopi Goldberg’s character is every bit as funny as her character in Ghosts. I love her sarcasm. Jenna Elfman is perfect as her wacky, off-the-wall friend. The movie depicts small-town living as only someone who’s been there can pull off. Great little movie.


Fried Chicken

Nothing says southern small town cooking like fried chicken, does it? There’s an amusing scene involving fried chicken in the movie. Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, John Warner, make a stop in town while on a campaign tour because she wants to try the friend chicken they serve at the diner.

When my family was young and we were on a tight budget, a friend taught me how to cut up a fryer without hacking it into unrecognizable pieces. We each had our favorite pieces. My youngest always ate the legs, my oldest the thighs, and my daughter and I fought over the wishbone.

These days I don’t fry chicken very often, and when I do, I only cook tenders. However, I still use the same recipe. It’s messy, but simple and yummy.

1 lb chicken tenders

1 cup flour

kosher salt and large grain pepper

one or two eggs, whipped

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper the tenders. Coat them with milk, salt and pepper. Dip each tender in a bowl of egg and milk mixture. Return them to the flour mixture one more time and fry in a cast iron skillet using vegetable oil. Cook until golden brown.

Makes the crispiest homemade chicken I’ve ever eaten.