Saturday, March 2, 2019

Sepia Saturday: Whatcha got cookin'?

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt awakened my senses as I imagined the aroma and taste of a delicious soup simmering on the stove. That is exactly what happens whenever I see this picture too.

Mathias Chicken

It is what our family and friends call “Mathias Chicken.” We did not invent it, but where we live it is unusual, and since we are apparently the only ones who do chicken this way, our name has been attached to it.

BBQ Chicken Pit in Broadway, Virginia
In Rockingham County - the chicken capital of Virginia if not the world - SOMEBODY is barbecuing chicken every Saturday. Church groups, volunteer firemen, Ruritans, Lions, Woodmen of the World and anyone else with access to a pit and a good recipe can make good money selling barbecued chicken. When my husband and I were dating and in our early years of marriage, we could buy a half chicken for $1.50, but I do not know what the going rate is now.

What makes this chicken different is that the sauce is vinegar-based with lots of salt, garlic powder or salt, onion powder OR salt, vegetable oil, and hot sauce, plus any other unique variations. The chicken marinates overnight and is put on the grill early the next morning to cook low and slow.

The king of chicken barbecue “back in the day” was Dave Shirkey. Any civic organization that advertised their chicken was prepared by Dave Shirkey was sure to sell out early. For a long time, his recipe was a well-kept secret. He was not the only one with a good recipe though. Our family has one.
Ads appeared every week in the Harrisonburg, VA  Daily News Record

For my in-laws’ 50th Anniversary, what better way to celebrate than with “Mathias Chicken.” In 1988, Ervin and Helen’s seven children and their families gathered at the family homeplace in Timberville, Virginia to do what the Mathias clan does best - EAT!

50th Anniversary June 1988
Jeff douses the chicken with more sauce using a toilet brush -
a new one, of course!
Barry’s brother Jeff borrowed a neighbor’s pit and took charge of the chicken barbecue.

50th Anniversary June 1988
Helen and Ervin with their fancy cake!
I love Helen's pose.
50th Anniversary June 1988
Look at all that Tupperware!
Barry's sisters Delyn and Brenda, oldest brother Donald, and Helen

50th Anniversary June 1988
Back: Barry, Donald, Wayne, Jeff
Front: Ervin, Helen, Brenda, Linda, Delyn
At our home in Chesapeake, for a long time we had no real barbecue pit. Our Weber grill was great for burgers and hot dogs, but not barbecue chicken the way we like it. So Barry commissioned Crossroads Fuel to cut down a couple of barrels and then he fashioned the grates with materials sold at Home Depot. Now we are set whenever someone says, “I think it’s time for some Mathias Chicken!”
Barry and his chicken barrels
At our lake house 2012
Barry with neighbor John in the smoke
I made Barry use a vegetable brush rather than toilet brush!
John and Barry man the chicken barrels
John and Barry - barbecuing chicken is a fun social time
but also some sitting and beer-drinking is required
while waiting to turn the chicken
End of Summer Bash Smith Mt Lake
End of Summer Bash at the lake
Neighbors enjoyed a pot luck that included Mathias Chicken.

Mmmm - I think it’s time for some Mathias Chicken!

Hey Good Lookin’ - See what’s cookin’ at Sepia Saturday!

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Great post! Love the toilet brush baster :-) and the barrel grill, which I am told by my BBQ-ing friends is the only way to go for a large gathering.

  2. I was sure the toilet brush would be a required tool for Mathias Chicken. My bad. Great story and photos!

    1. There is just something unappetizing about seeing a toilet brush in the pot of marinade. The veggie brush doesn't have a long handle, which is one drawback.

  3. I liked what you cooked up for us today!

  4. Okay - come summer I'm going to have to try BBQing up a version of Mathias Chicken. It sounds absolutely yummy!

    1. Yeah, writing about it got my tastebuds working!

  5. There something primitive about slow cooking meat over a hot charcoal fire. The smoke enhances the vinegar flavor and takes us back to our Neanderthal roots. Or maybe Cro-magnon if you're descended from the mustard sauce line.

    1. Neanderthal - Cro-magnon - you really know how to charm a girl.

  6. I LOVE THIS! I love everything about it! Basting with a toilet brush - only your family could come up with that. I've got chicken thawing for dinner tonight and I'm so happy because now I'm hungry for chicken.

    1. Hmm, not sure what this says about our family!

  7. That chicken sure looks delicious! I'm sure it tasted even better than it looked!


  8. I love Helen's pose too. I'm waiting for my dinner to finish and the Mathias chicken is so tempting right now.

    1. All the talk of chicken is making me hungry too.

  9. Here it is nearly midnight and now I'm hungry for Matthias Chicken!
    You and your family are such picture-takers! I think you must have one for every event, idea, or theme -- both old and new ones!
    That's a great photo of Helen and Ervin. If I knew more about body language I would probably have a good idea what she's saying with her elbow resting on his shoulder. What a fun post, Wendy.