As a culinary anthropologist, I have always wondered: Why did Anthony Bourdain make his career trying food in foreign places when there is so much left to discover in the landscape of American cuisine? Even the simplest of our national dishes – a basic chicken recipe, for example – can offer insight into the various subcultures of the ‘Land of the Free’ and unearth facts about our history.
From fried chicken, to grilled chicken breasts in salad, to the hot dog at the county fair that was probably more chicken parts than anything else, chicken is a part of what it means to be American. However, for many Americans, there is disagreement over how to properly prepare poultry. The cookouts and potlucks of this nation have become too accustomed to chicken that is dry and bland. For a country that has branded itself as a melting pot of the many flavors of the world, it begs the question: why aren’t those flavors making it onto the chicken?
To better understand the root of this issue, I wanted to identify those responsible for pushing this pathetic poultry onto our plates. Surely it isn’t Black people, who have long made chicken so flavorful that it’s become a stereotype. Nor did I suspect Korean and Middle Eastern cooks, who are doing such amazing things with chicken that you can find their popular food stands across the country.
What my research proves is that the only culture consistently fucking up this delectable livestock is the Whites – despite the fact chicken was originally brought to the States by European settlers, many of whom were ostensibly questing for spice. What can we glean about White culture from how it makes its mediocre meat? And why has this flavorlessness persisted so long in direct resistance to the ‘cultural appropriation’ phenomenon that has also defined American Whiteness?
In order to understand the Caucasian culinary crisis, I looked to a recently uncovered recipe for Caucasian Cooked Chicken dating back to the 15th century (spelling modernised). In this codex, I hope to find elements that better articulate the rich history of this poorly seasoned bird.
Caucasian Cooked Chicken
- Slaughter one live chicken, severing the neck and allowing the blood to drain out fully
- While it drains, apply for a government loan for “cultural exploration.”
- Remove feathers from chicken.
- Assemble a crew of no less than 90 sturdy men; take to the seas on an expedition for foreign spices.
- Violently colonize Southeast Asia, Africa, and any other continent you stumble upon in the name of Christianity, to taste.
- Liberally plunder and pilfer these uncharted territories, while robbing the Indigenous people of their land, resources, culture, and personhood. Continue for 500 years, or until they reach your desired level of colonization.
- “Discover” and give nomenclature to the herbs and spices you acquire.
- If desired, import other people to work the stolen lands and build an entire economy around both the imported (free) labor and commercialized trade of those discovered spices.
- NEVER let those spices anywhere near the chicken.
- Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of black pepper. (Extremely Optional).
- Cook over an open flame oven in a cast iron pan for about an hour.
- Once the bird has reached an even taupe color, it is ready to be eaten.
This seemingly ordinary recipe indicates that the white custom of ‘foul fowl’ has little to do with the chicken or even the spices they neglect to use. It is a gesture of remembrance, similar to the eating of unleavened bread at Passover or chitterlings in Black households during large family gatherings. Truly, Caucasian Cooked Chicken pays homage to the history that brought this group to America.
Books: “Queer Love in Color” by Jamal Jordan and “In Our Shoes” by Brianna Holt.
Music: Long Live the Keeng – Keenon Rush, ROTY/MVP – CAMM, Homecoming – VanJess