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If there’s a food that defines summer eating, not to mention the go-to for a fast meal or to help with hangover blues, it has to be fried chicken.
Greasy, decadent and delicious, fried chicken is synonymous with comfort cuisine and a food absolutely steeped in a history that dates back thousands of years. Many will say fried chicken traditions are part of the southern US Black diaspora, yet its roots can be traced to the Scots and their cooking styles. Research from nationaltoday.com/national-fried-chicken-day reports it was the Scottish immigrants to the US who brought with them their tradition of deep-frying chicken in fat, and that seasoning was at a minimum, making the dish a tad bland .
“African slaves of the Scottish immigrants adopted the fried chicken recipe, often adding more spices as their own unique touch in the way fried chicken was cooked,” notes the site, adding, “this dish became a staple in many Southern-American households when African slaves became cooks … as time passed, African-American cooks made the fried chicken part of their own culinary tradition, making it quintessentially southern.”
This is all great food for thought, considering July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day, a day to commemorate a dish with a deep, flavorful history. The earliest known recipe for fried chicken can be found in the 18th century The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by cookbook author Hannah Glasse – which was first published in 1747.
The story of fried chicken was also featured in the excellent four-part Netflix series High on the Hog, How African American Cuisine Transformed Americawith chef and writer Stephen Satterfield paying tribute to this humble dish, and its role during the time of slavery and emancipation.
Every country has their own version of fried chicken. According to cookbook author Adrian Miller in a story for the BBC, “perhaps the world loves fried chicken because there are so many different ways to marinate, season, coat and fry it. Your standard Southern US version is either coated in flour or batter and then fried to a crisp in oil. If you marinate the chicken first in citrus juices and spices, you’ve got Guatemalan fried chicken. Bathe it in soy sauce, ginger and garlic; dredge it in potato starch and you’ve got Japanese Tatsuta-age. Leave the bones in, fry it twice and then coat it in a thick, sweetened gochujang (chilli paste) for Korean fried chicken. Change the gochujang to an intensely spicy cayenne pepper paste, and you’ve got Nashville hot chicken … the list goes on and on.”
Of course, when you think of fried chicken today, Colonel Harland David Sanders’ name automatically comes up – considering he didn’t start selling his chicken with secret ingredients until he was in his mid-60s. He went on to found the famous fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as KFC). Interesting to note, Sanders moved to Canada in 1965, and lived in Mississauga, to help oversee his Canadian franchises. He had purchased and lived in a nice bungalow in the ‘burbs until his death of him in 1980. His estate continues to donate to local charities as well as the Trillium Health Centre, where the emergency room is named in his honor of him.
Today, KFC is reporting the latest food trend (even attracting such celebrities as Dave Grohl) is pairing fried chicken with sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne to compliment the flavor nuances of the fried meat. According to a recent survey by KFC Canada, 41% of Canadian adults are interested in trying this unusual pairing.
AMERICANS LOVE THEIR CHICKEN – BUT SO DO CANADIANS
Research shows that, on average, Americans will munch on 50 kg of chicken a year – more than pork or beef. According to Statistics Canada, chicken is among the most popular protein Canadians eat, averaging about 34.6 kg, of chicken per person year in 2020.
MOST POPULAR FRIED CHICKEN SPOTS IN THE US:
TOP Data food specialists recently analyzed aggregated visit data from 12 million Americans in 2022 to find the most popular fried chicken outlet and hands-down, Chick-fil-A is the official winner by being the favorite in 22 states, followed by KFC in 11 states, Raising Cane’s in nine states and Church’s Chicken in three states.
CANADA’S GO-TO FRIED CHICKEN OUTLETS:
They include Mary Browns, (one of the fastest-growing Canadian quick-serve restaurant chains in the country, having been founded in St. John’s with more than 200 locations), KFC, Popeyes Louisiana Chicken, Chick-fil-A Canada, and Jollibee, to name just a few popular fried chicken spots.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH FRIED CHICKEN IN ACTION
Hands down for me, my favorite scene is in the film Help, which came out in 2011, and told the story of a fictional town in Mississippi, during the early 1960s and showcasing the Civil Rights movement and the plight of a group of maids. There is a juicy scene in which actor Octavia Spencer, portraying a maid, prepares a dish of mouth-watering fried chicken – using Crisco as the secret ingredient to fry the bird bits. Crisco got a huge endorsement, the irony being Ella Spencer’s character must feed the fried chicken to her employer, Celia Foote, played by actor Jessica Chastain – who, in real life, is a vegan. The “food wranglers” for the movie created a dish that looked amazingly like fried chicken – when viewers watched Chastain hungrily chomp into a piece of fried chicken, it was actually soy hot dogs wrapped in vegan turkey slices, rolled it in vegan flour, almond milk and fried in vegetable oil!