National Fried Chicken Day And The Guide Reaches 100
Sometimes it does not matter how much we try to plan for something, it turns out the way it is meant to turn out. So, a few weeks ago I started mapping out the strategy for when I was going to get to my one hundredth blog post. And then I got a little off track because I realized I needed to take a step back from the amount of blogs that I was doing per week. As I approached my one-hundredth post I realized that I was going to get to 100 when I do my weekly food holiday post. So I took a look at the food holidays that were out there. I could have skipped the food holiday post this week. But who in the world skips the possibility of talking about the history of fried chicken? It’s freaking FRIED CHICKEN!!!!
But I cannot get to one hundred without saying some thoughts about what it feels like to get to one hundred. Whether I should be doing this with a poem, I am not really sure. But you gotta be yourself. So what better way for me to celebrate 100 than with a poem?
Ode To One Hundred
Back in the days of January,
When the weather was still really cold,
I started something some called a blog,
With my stories that need to be told.
I hoped my blog began with a bang,
But in truth, it began with a spark.
Parent adventures I brought with me,
Dreaming one day of making my mark.
So with the beginning, I began
To tell all of my parenting tale.
I share, as my new venture sets sail.
But like every journey, you need friends.
And I met some great ones on my way.
And more, they lift me up to this day.
I could tell tales of Elizabeth’s
Plight, and Gigi’s miraculous feast.
Ali makes dishes that make me drool,
And that Poppins the Dad is a beast.
Each has shown lights making bright this path,
To this glorious future unknown.
And knowing my “why” turns dark to light,
So my passion can brighter be shown.
Now reaching to one hundred I bask
In the glow of Tales leaving my mind,
And hope your imagination feels
Inspired by everything it may find.
Is this the end? Heck no! do I shout.
I’ve got endless tales yet to be told,
With new friends to meet along my path,
And adventures for which I’ll be bold.
Come fly with me on journeys unknown
Because boredom you never will find.
Don’t be trapped in your mind by your fears
Of unknown creatures that you must bind.
For Tales begin when the hero meets
Friends who join him in mischief and fun.
And without you, this blog would not be
Here, and I might have never begun.
One last little thought on one hundred
I tell: Age is only in your mind.
So this blog’s not one hundred but one
You see; now don’t let fun leave you behind.
I know this is the end of the poem, but don’t feel bad because you have missed the list. If I tried to put down everyone who inspired me this blog would contain hundreds of thousands of words. And you wouldn’t want to read that. I wouldn’t want to read that. These people inspired me and stood beside me along this journey almost since the beginning. Maybe in another hundred posts, you will find yourself on this list. And with a thousand, who knows what kind of list I will have??? But let’s not get ahead of myself. Thank you all for being here. This blog would not be here without you. Now let’s do the funky chicken!!!! I mean fried chicken. Which means it’s time for another Fake History . . . History . . . (Imagine this on high reverb!)
Fake History Of Fried Chicken
The fake history of fried chicken, which many people call Southern Fried Chicken is a tale as old as time. Wait, that’s another tale. OK! But the version we at the Guide like the most goes way back to the Ancient Egyptians and those crazy pyramids. Evidently, some Egyptian Pharaoh, around 5 B.C., dealing with an over population of pigs, told his peasants to sacrifice them all at the pyramids, and not to leave any waste.
Once the Egyptian Priests noticed the sweet smell of the fat of the pigs, they decided to try cooking some meat in that fat to see if it could add to the flavor. They loved it so much they decided to cook everything in this amazing fat. This continued for centuries despite people chronically dying in their early thirties after this fat frying had begun. Their soothsayers told the people there was no correlation between fat frying and death.
The Greeks, after they tried to take over the known world, ran into this fat frying method in Egypt. They loved the taste, but they didn’t trust the pig fat to be a safe cooking method. So instead they decided to use the oil from olives to fry their food. And later the Romans in one A.D. stole this cooking method from the Greeks and made it their own, as they seemed to appropriate the rest of Greek culture, and began frying all manner of meats. The initial dish they fried, Romans called Pullum Frontonianum, contained chicken. Hence the first fried chicken dish was born.
Hundreds of years pass, as the Roman Empire spread its tentacles throughout Europe, dropping its faux Greek culture off to the world. Eventually, it would make its way to the British Isles and land in the lap of the English. But we all know how stodgy the English can be and so they refused to accept the frying of chicken in some kind of fat. They had to continue to boil their chicken, just as they had always done. (Which if anyone has had the rubbery mess that a boiled chicken is, one has to question their sanity, sobriety or both.) The Scots, ever the ones to thumb their noses at the British decided they would try out this Roman delicacy and began to fry their chicken. (It’s also possible they did this because chickens were peasant food and the English only allowed them to have chicken for their meals.)
At this point, the Guide grew tired of all of the nitpicking and back biting those food historians lodged against one another. (I always wondered whether Throw Down with Bobby Flay was the coarsening of the food world. Evidently, they have been throwing down for centuries and I never knew it.) So whether or not the Scottish brought it to America is up for dispute. Whether it’s some food carpetbagger who wishes to destroy the romantic imagery of the south, or whether it’s some modern food revisionist who wants to make a name for themselves by being contrarian, I cannot tell.
What we here at the Guide can tell you is that the first recipe that we can find is from Hanna Glasse in The Art of Cookery. This all important guide to cooking (with a very silly name) they found in the Library of Thomas Jefferson. Whether or not that means you should take this book as gospel or light it up in a big book burning ceremony would depend upon your political affiliation, I imagine. The curious thing about her recipe is that it is mentioned in the 1758 and 1774 British editions of the book, but when they published an American edition it was left out.
She uses a very unique term for the title of her recipe: ‘To Marinate Chickens’. We here at the Guide stared in disbelief when we saw the title. But we think we should use this term for all deep fried foods, from now on, to make them sound healthier. From now on you should say, “I am having a hamburger and marinated potatoes.” Or . . . “could you please pass the marinated onions?”
From there the next mention of fried chicken in a cook book in would occur in Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-Wife, in 1824. Mary Randolph just so happened to be a relative of Thomas Jefferson and her cookbook was found among the stacks of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. We here at the Guide believe she undertook, with the assistance of these American Scions, the elimination of the Fried Chicken Recipe from American versions of the art of cookery. Whether that means they brought pressure upon the publishers of the The Art of Cookery or whether there was a big square hole in every American copy of said book, we cannot say. Randolph’s recipe was almost a duplicate of the Glasse’s version, without the marinating euphemism.
But all of those fried chickens would be considered mostly bland when it comes to today’s fried chicken because our version of fried chicken didn’t come about until herbs and spices were added to the mixture. Unfortunately, this bit of chicken history is brought to you by the letter “S”. This “S,” of course, stands for slavery. Among the many jobs that slaves were allowed to hold in plantation houses, were cooks. They took one look at the white man’s bland chicken and thought that we must be crazy if we want to eat bland food like that. So bringing with them many of the herbs and spices from their native Africa as well as some they picked up in the Caribbean, these African chefs prepared a culinary treat for their masters that they had never held before.
Coincidentally, one of the few livestock animals that slaves were allowed to own was chicken. So it’s no wonder that they would be making marvelous dishes out of the food that was a staple in their diet. Before long, the southern people appropriated this food as their own and it became an amazing staple in their diet. The amazing taste, as well as the fact that this food, once fried, could keep for long periods of time without going bad and didn’t need refrigeration made this dish extremely popular.
From there on the fried chicken would eventually be spread by subtle racist subtexts throughout the country. First, there were the vaudevillians who would go out in blackface and talk about the staple diet of the African American community as fried chicken and grits or watermelon. Eventually, you would have a Mr. Sanders whiten his beard and get in a suit with black tie to harken back to the old southern plantations as we would sell his “Original Recipe” fried chicken. Given what we now know about the fried chicken background, it’s sad to think of a man continuing to steal the work off another man’s brow.
And its popularity spread like wildfire ever since. It spread its way into various food industries year after year. And by 2014, they named the fried chicken the biggest up and coming market in the fast food industry. Why? Because fried chicken rocks, of course.
The Guide weeps over the fact the spread of fried chicken and its introduction into modern society mostly occurred through the major stain on American identity: slavery. What we here at the guide will say is that there is a strange beauty to the origination of Fried Chicken to the American diet, much like America itself. It all came together through disparate people’s from all continents of the world. From they modified it to fit conditions and elements that existed at the time. And finally, it is an amalgamation of different food tastes all blended together to make one amazing dish. It is the E Pluribus Unum of the American Diet. And “it’s finger lickin’ good.” What more can I say?
My Favorite Fried Chicken Recipe For National Fried Chicken Day
And as we have another food holiday to celebrate, I have to make sure I give you something to celebrate with. For this month, I will be choosing my favorite fried chicken recipe. And as much as I loved making the stuffed fried chicken (definitely try it out), when I think of fried chicken I think of chicken quartered at the bone and then battered and fried. Having a boneless chicken breast does not count that way as far as I am concerned. So I am not going to just pub my own blog here. I want to celebrate the best of fried chicken. And as last week I gave you a best of for the Ice Cream Soda, I don’t want to make this series stale. Hence, fried chicken recipe.
And as I making a southern dish, I cannot go without paying homage to my favorite Southern Chef: Alton Brown. (I know you were thinking Paula Dean but no. Just no.) And yes, Alton Brown was born in Los Angeles, but he moved to Georgia as a youth and has made his home and headquarters there ever since. This guy’s food rocks. From the inspiration to my chocolate eclairs, to his heavenly parmesan infused garlic mashed potatoes, to his light as a feather Cheese Soufflé, I cannot say enough about this man’s cooking. And what’s crazier, is that I have made all of these dishes just by reading his books or watching one of his episodes of Good Eats. Maybe I have some minor cooking talent. But Alton is the closest thing to heaven to me when it comes to good food.
His chicken, just like every one of his dishes is to die for. (Ok, maybe not the rarebit. But I honestly think I was using the wrong kind of beer for it.) They are melt in your mouth goodness. In this instance he has the chicken sit in buttermilk overnight. Do not forget this step or you will not get the yummy goodness that is this amazing batch of Fried Chicken. Also, when he says don’t put it in a gas oven afterward, and do not touch it, he means it. HANDS OFF!!! As I did not modify the recipe at all because it stands on its own, I will just leave the link to this goodness instead of putting the recipe on the page.
Find the recipe here at the Food Network® Website: Alton Brown Fried Chicken Recipe
Continue the Conversation
So what did you think of the history of fried chicken? What fried chicken recipe do you love to cook? And if you don’t like to cook fried chicken, where is your favorite place to eat it? Even if it contains unbreaded fried chicken, I would love to know about it. (Even KFC has that as an option now.) And if you got to try out Alton’s recipe, you will have to let me know what you think. To me, he’s a food genius but that’s just one foodie’s opinion.
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Until next time (and another food holiday), this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life