The oil sizzles, a spray of bubbles rippling across the pan, then the flour-coated chicken dropped in, first a thigh, then a leg, a breast, a wing, another leg, the hiss and sputter of crisping, edges ruffling, browning, the juices drawn in as a hand deftly turns and shifts the pieces in a hot pan in a hot kitchen, somewhere a fan droning, then the curtains fluttering, inviting the sharp smell of summer trees. That hand might be Georgia Gilmore’s, a black hand that’s salted and floured and tossed plenty of feasts in this iron skillet, presenting plates of crusted gold for family and neighbors, for anniversaries and funerals, for friends and activists who support the Montgomery bus boycott.  It’s 1955, then 1956 and money’s tight, desperately needed to fund hundreds of cars and trucks that ferry black workers to and from their work across town, the city buses defiantly ignored, empty of people, the harassing drivers driving alone.  And all this while Georgia Gilmore fries chicken and fish, bakes pound cakes and pumpkin pies, stews greens and plumps rice, selling her food to beauty parlors, cab stands, churches, Saturday meetings, both black and white hands reaching for the goodness and gladly paying the price, all that money spilling into the coffers of the Club from Nowhere.  Is that right?  What kind of name is that? What kind of club, you say?  Oh, it’s a sly, clever name to fit a sly, clever way for Georgia Gilmore and her sisters and grannies to contribute, to help the cause without raising a flag, without making white employers suspicious or white landlords feel the itch of eviction if they had any inkling they housed such fighters.  But no. This is just black women cooking.  Black women baking and selling cakes and pies.  Black women doing what black women have often done to add a little extra money to the pot.  And who needs to know this pot will help keep that boycott going for 381 days, months and months of paying for insurance and gas and wagons and repairs, supporting the system of resistance, the right to say I sit wherever I want to sit.  Now, where did you say that money came from?  Why goodness, “it came from nowhere.”  

Patricia Foster is the author of All the Lost Girls, Just Beneath My Skin, and Girl from Soldier Creek, and editor of the anthology Understanding the Essay (with Jeff Porter). She is the recipient of the 2017 Clarence Cason Award for nonfiction and the Theodore Hoepfner Award for the essay.  She has been a professor in the MFA Program in Nonfiction at the University of Iowa for over twenty years and has taught in France, Australia, Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain. 

Photo by Elizabeth Fackler