One by one, I walked up the chain of command at the Danielsville Volunteer Fire Department until I got to Chief Perry. He’s in his late fifties, a big guy, wearing a yellow apron with his name on it. He told me what the heck I was doing here, and I told him I sure was glad I came.
My wife and daughter and I were among dozens in Danielsville Saturday night eating an enormous amount of chicken mull. There were long tables set up inside the fire station’s bays, with axes and memorabilia on the walls and pickles and onions on the plastic tablecloths. The DVFD does this once a year; they invite the community for their fundraiser and dozens come for miles, paying seven bucks a head to eat all the mull they could.
Mull is a surprising and tasty little dish. It’s like a stew, but thinner than I was expecting. They debone the chickens and cook it up with saltines, milk, butter, salt, pepper and some other things they’re not willing to share. They get 150 pounds of chickens to pull this off, and they serve it with some amazing slaw prepared with a good bit of vinegar and enough sweet tea to drown in. It is wonderful. In a fair and just world, there would be some barbecue restaurants around that offered this as a side instead of Brunswick stew, just to keep things interesting.
So anyway, I asked Chief Perry to tell me how the heck this got started. He told me that he grew up eating rabbit mull, that it used to be a common dish here in northeast Georgia. Twenty-seven years ago, when the fire department needed to raise funds, they considered holding a barbecue, but everybody up there does that, from little leagues to the Keep Cornelia Beautiful committee, so they needed something to stand out from the crowd.
He asked whether we were from around there, and I told him sadly, no, we live in Marietta, and that I read about the fundraiser at Online Athens. I can’t remember who referred me to it; probably Hillary at Flagpole, but I can’t find it just now.
Chief Perry thanked me for coming and told me he hoped we’d come back next year. I thanked him for having us and thought about the pineapple-and-cherry pie that Marie brought back to the table. I’m trying so hard to think about sensible portion sizes, and the third bowl of mull really was pushing it, and it was time to have a small dessert and call it quits. I’d been conservative, though: I just added a spoonful of onions to my mull, and just had a few Premium saltines and my pickles – and damn, those were good pickles – on the side.
The lady next to us, meanwhile, dumped about two dozen pickles and half the bowl of onions in her mull, then crushed up a big handful of crackers and stirred the thickening soup with a really generous helping of Texas Pete. I felt robbed. I said to myself on the way up from Athens that I couldn’t see myself making this trip again unless we were going to revisit Zeb Dean’s, which is a trip we’re long overdue for making. Then I looked at this lady’s thick, orange-and-green mull and how good it looked mixed up like that and realized we’ll be back in Danielsville at least twice more before I’m done with the place.