Bessie’s Chicken Wings

Bessie's chicken wings and veggies

I recently read a story from one of my favorite blogs, Pinch of Yum, entitled “Feeding a Broken Heart.” In this story, fellow-blogger, Lindsay, shares with her audience the pain of losing her infant son and her inability to eat, much less enjoy, food after experiencing such heartbreak. Upon learning of the tragedy, angels quickly descended upon Lindsay’s doorstep bearing gifts of hope and love disguised as casseroles, soups, salads, and desserts. This simple act of kindness, Lindsay proclaims, is what helped her find her way again, both physically and emotionally.

Grief has a cruel way of affecting our appetite. For some, a common side effect of bereavement is overeating. For others, appetite is simply held captive by the heartache, thus starving them of nourishment necessary to heal.

Like Lindsay, there was a time when I, too, found it impossible to eat or enjoy food amidst unexpected sorrow. It had been six days since I had eaten a morsel of food. My stomach was tied in an unforgiving knot and my head pounded from dehydration, yet, I had no intention of eating on day seven. Then my angel showed up.

Her name was Bessie – a co-worker at the Regional Personnel Center in Sembach, Germany. I was an entry-level Personnel Clerk, and Bessie was a seasoned Staffing Specialist. From the moment we met, I felt an immediate connection to Bessie. Her southern charm, sassy spirit, and love for God and comfort food were magnets to my soul. It didn’t take long for our newly formed friendship to develop into a special mother-daughter bond.

I managed to keep my sad news from Bessie for an entire week. I guess there was a part of me that was still in shock. When the pain became too much for me to bear alone, I confided in her that my husband of 10 years informed me that he no longer loved me and wanted a divorce. It was an unexpected blow to my heart, one that Bessie knew well from experiencing her own heartbreak. As she held me in her arms, she asked, “When was the last time you ate?” She knew by the look on my face that it had been a while and with that, she insisted on cooking me dinner.

Bessie had our Friday evening all planned – a home-cooked meal, gospel music, and some good ole Christian preaching by Joyce Meyer. I had never heard of Joyce Meyer, but Bessie loved her teaching and was eager to watch her on some VHS tapes she recently purchased. I have watched Joyce Meyer every day since.

I was greeted by a delicious blend of culinary smells as Bessie opened the door and welcomed me inside. I followed her to the dining area where a heavenly feast of chicken wings, salad, bread, and iced tea awaited me. Bessie made one thing clear: my days of involuntary fasting were over.

Bessie’s chicken wings were tender and juicy inside, no doubt the result of being encapsulated within a perfectly fried exterior. I instinctively closed my eyes and listened to the loud and satisfying crunch. The caramelized sauce was a perfect combination of sweet and savory; the flavor was so intense, it aroused my taste buds and sent me on a feeding frenzy.

With each bite, I literally felt solace enter my broken spirit. Joy began to replace depression, and hope assumed control over impending despair. Hours earlier, I was depleted mentally, physically, and spiritually. Now, I was happy and fulfilled. My angel provided the strength and nourishment I desperately needed to move forward. Everything was going to be okay – I was going to be okay. I had been fed.

Today is National Chicken Wing Day! Head over to the Forum and share your favorite chicken wing story or recipe.


Bessie’s Chicken Wings

  • 2 pounds of chicken wings (about 20-25 pieces)
  • 1 cup olive oil (or utilize a deep fryer)
  • 1 cup corn starch or flour (I prefer corn starch, it makes them extra crunchy!)
  • ½ cup of packed brown sugar
  • 2 10-ounce bottles of La Choy Sweet & Sour Sauce
  • 1 6-ounce bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse chicken wings with water and coat with corn starch. Place coated wings into deep fryer or frying pan with pre-heated olive oil.
Fry wings until golden. Set aside.
Combine brown sugar, sweet & sour sauce, and half a bottle (you can use more if you like them more spicy than sweet) of hot sauce in a mixing bowl. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.
Dip wings into the sauce and place in an ungreased 9×13 baking dish.
Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes or until sauce begins to caramelize.
Remove from oven. Serve hot.

*Note: The above recipe has been slightly modified to cater to my family’s taste buds.

Grandma Schmidt’s Green Stuff

Green Stuff

My Grandma Schmidt was the best cook in the universe. I could go on for days telling you about all her yummy homemade creations, but today’s story is set aside for my favorite dessert—Green Stuff.

Because my family lived in Oklahoma and Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt lived in Iowa, we didn’t get to see them as much as any of us would have liked. But when we did get to visit, Grandma would spend hours preparing a variety of special treats for us. She would make coffee cakes, bars, cookies, gooey pull-apart monkey bread, and Green Stuff.

Its official name was Watergate Salad, but when you are three, you tend to call it like you see it, and the pistachio pudding mix used as the main ingredient turned the sweet, fluffy dessert green. I think Grandma put extra marshmallows in there for my benefit because every bite spilled over with them. She also served it up for breakfast (also for my benefit), although it really wasn’t a breakfast item. She would display the pretty dessert in a large bowl smack dab in the middle of the table amid the sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, grapefruit, toast, homemade jam, and cinnamon rolls. My mom knew she was outnumbered and lacked control over what Grandma chose to serve her guests, but that didn’t stop her from shooting me a stern look for diving right into the Green Stuff before even nibbling any meat or eggs.

My entire life, Grandma always had a batch of Green Stuff waiting for me when I came to visit. Every bite would immediately take me back to when I was three. Even though I had grown into an adult, she never let up on the marshmallows—it still overflowed with them, and I never minded. She eventually gave me the recipe, and I began making it for my own daughter. She is now 28 years old with a family of her own, and when I ask her what special treat she wants when they come to visit, without skipping a beat, she says, “Green Stuff!”

What food items take you back to your childhood? Below is the recipe for Watergate Salad, a.k.a. Grandma Schmidt’s Green Stuff.


Grandma Schmidt’s Green Stuff

1 box of pistachio Jell-O instant pudding mix
1 can of crushed pineapple (in juice; do not drain!)
1 jar of maraschino cherries (drained)
1 bag of miniature marshmallows
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 tub of Cool Whip

Combine ingredients, fold in Cool Whip. Chill for an hour, then enjoy!

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