A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The chicken wing craze

   Another in the list of irrational food fads is chicken wings, fried, deep-fried, slathered with a hot or not so hot sauce. There are entire franchises now built around this gastronomic abomination. Amazing. As far as I can tell, this all got started on a very local level, in Buffalo New York, back in 1964. There it lived a largely unnoticed existence until about thirty years ago when they received national television coverage on the "Today Show", where Bryant Gumbel referred to them as "drummies". There are other versions of their origins, but none of that really matters to me. What I'm curious about is why anyone eats them.
    Here's why I regard the consumption of chicken wings as, if not irrational, then at least very peculiar: There is virtually no meat on the things! This is beyond dispute. What do people think they're eating? To answer my own question, they may think they're partaking of the musculature - such as it is - of a chicken, but what they're actually eating and tasting is the coating, for lack of a better word, the sauce. Now the sauce may taste good, but can't people think of something more substantial to put it on? On your normal chicken, the wing is waste. Another reason it's so odd to eat these things is that about half of what people are consuming is fat, the skin. This is disgusting. Eat like this and join the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight, if you aren't already a member in good standing. I know chicken skin, as in fried and grilled chicken can be very tasty, but in the case of wings, the ratio of fat to meat must be about 1:1, that is, 50-50. In the case of a chicken breast, the ratio of fat to meat is much, much lower. So consumers of Buffalo-type chicken wings are (a) tasting mostly the sauce, and (b) eating a large amount of fat rather than meat. I have an idea: You know those packaged skinless chicken breasts and thighs in grocery stores? Why not scrape up all that skin on the poultry producers' floors and start food franchises serving fried skin with sauce? Forget about any actual meat; you weren't getting any to speak of, anyway.
    This subject leads me, as a political scientist by education and training, to suggest another more basic reason for their popularity: The poultry industry, thirty years or so ago, wanted to and did in fact create a market for these sorry excuses for food. Parenthetically, following this angle, we might expect "Arkansas Backs" (not to be confused with Razorbacks) in the near future as a way to make money off that other forgotten part of the chicken, the back. Hell, even the back has more meat that the appendages of flightless birds.
    Elsewhere on this blog, I've raised the question, not so much why hamburgers are so popular, but what accounts for their exponentially increasing popularity, even at very good restaurants. I offered some answers to both questions, but in the end, one must admit that hamburgers simply taste good and afford a solid umami eating experience. There's not only a sauce, but also a chunk of ground cow, lettuce, cheese, and countless other additions and condiments. There's a whole package there. There's no "package" when it comes to chicken wings. This court adjourns.

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