Norman Van Aken: "The Best Thing I Ever Ate"
A war might break out in the family if I decided on one barbecue dish, but I feel safe recalling a fried treasure.
We went up to Charleston, South Carolina, back in about '86 for a big symposium on American food. All manner of comestibles were on deck that weekend, but one of the most extraordinary was at a "field dinner" held on the grounds of a plantation where a crew of women in antebellum clothes cooked fried catfish and okra in big black cauldrons. The exteriors were as crisp and light as frying gets, with the true taste of the sealed-within food still ringing true and pure.