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The history of blood and tears behind American fried chicken

  In Korea, fried chicken is always sold with beer. This combination is called chimaek. Japanese fried chicken is called “Tangyang Fried Chicken”. The chicken nuggets are marinated in soy sauce and garlic, then the chicken nuggets are coated in flour, and finally fried in a pan. If you use a citrus-flavored marinade, you can enjoy Guatemalan fried chicken. The fried chicken in the southern United States is also very delicious, but objectively speaking, it is not better than other versions of fried chicken. However, it is the American fried chicken, to be precise, the American southern fried chicken, which has taken the world by storm.
  Southern fried chicken can go to the world largely thanks to a bearded colonel in a white suit and his secret blend of spices. But in fact, the Southern Fried Chicken already existed long before the self-styled colonel was born. Not only is its history not as plain and gentle as the colonel’s smile, it is even full of bitterness.
  American fried chicken originated somewhere between Scotland and West Africa. More than 145,000 Scots who went to the southern United States in the 18th century brought the tradition of battered fried chicken. And nearly half a million enslaved West Africans in North America brought the know-how of fried chicken and stewed chicken in their special dishes. Many of them were forced to work in the kitchens of the slave plantations, and it was they who perfected the art of fried chicken.
  In those days, chicken was a seasonal dish. Chickens that have just grown in spring have tender meat and are most suitable for frying. The cooking process is time-consuming and laborious. Once a chicken is selected, it is necessary to catch the chicken, slaughter, blanch, pluck the hair, remove the internal organs, burn off the remaining fluff, and finally cut into meat pieces. After these processes are completed, it can be coated with flour, marinated and fried.
  In the United States, Virginia and Maryland have developed two methods of fried chicken. Mary Randolph was a white woman from a slave family in Richmond, Virginia. She was also the author of the first native American cookbook “The Housewives of Virginia.” She likes to deep fry the chicken in a pot of boiling lard. Her cookbook was published in 1824 and it seems to be the first cookbook printed with southern fried chicken. On the other side of the Potomac River, Maryland chefs prefer to use a cast iron frying pan, add a little oil, cover the pan to slowly fry the chicken, and serve with white gravy.
  At that time, the price of chickens was not high, and the landlords of the colonies were basically unwilling to raise chickens on the farm. Most of them prefer beef and pork, and do not regard chicken as regular meat. On the contrary, Emilyn Rudd wrote in “The Flavor of Chicken: A History of American Chickens” that people believe that chicken is only suitable for the sick and the weak.
  Therefore, in 1741, South Carolina and North Carolina amended the slave laws to stipulate that slaves cannot own pigs, cows or horses, but can legally own chickens. Similar laws were soon introduced in other parts of the South. Chickens became more and more important to slaves. They were raised around the dunghill or in the yard. Some slaves also traded eggs, feathers and chicken.
  During the Civil War in the 1860s, it became more and more difficult for soldiers to find enough food to eat, especially soldiers from the Confederacy. As a result, chickens have become precious, and the behavior of stealing chickens has become more common. Doctors, priests, German factory workers, Italian chefs, and even Mark Twain have been accused of stealing chicken. However, only black Americans were actually prosecuted. In 1876, a black woman in Virginia was charged with stealing a chicken. As part of the evidence, the hen was taken to court to identify her offspring. The court was convinced that the hen recognized her child, and based on the chicken’s “testimony”, sentenced the woman to 39 lashes.
  This crime became the focus of racial prejudice. In the 19th century, the connection between black people and chicken stealing was deeply ingrained in the minds of white Americans. The “chicken problem” became the subject of the great debate. An article in the New York Times in 1882 said, why is there “a mysterious, powerful, and indelible thirst for chicken” in “every people of color”? The article also said: “Every cell in his body feels that chickens were born for the benefit of people of color, and he will grab them wherever they can be found.” Without them, African American People “may die in depression.”
  The history of American fried chicken is not entirely gloomy. In the late 19th century, Gordonsville, Virginia was known as the “Fried Chicken Capital of the World.” In an era when trains had no dining cars, the town was the main stop on two railway lines. After the Civil War, the newly freed African-American women held fried chicken on the platform and sold the fried chicken to passengers through the train window. In her book “Building a House on Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power”, Saike Williams-Felson stated that fried chicken has enabled these women to achieve financial independence and allow some of them to buy houses and start their own businesses. Own business.
  However, these are unbearable for racists. The film “The Birth of a Nation”, released in 1915, blatantly promoted racism, beautified the Ku Klux Klan, and portrayed African Americans as lazy and erotic. Not only that, but there is also a scene where African-American legislators put their feet on their desks and eat fried chicken. Claire Schmidt, a scholar at Missouri Valley College, believes that this “image of black people gorging themselves with fried chicken” appears endlessly in advertisements and popular culture, deepening the issue of “no hygiene, no education, indulgence, and ignorance”. “The racist stereotype. Even today, many blacks still do not want to eat fried chicken in public.
  Facts have also proved that the idea of ​​a special connection between blacks and chickens has stubbornly existed in people’s brains. At an event, African-American comedian David Chappell recounted the experience of a waiter in a Mississippi restaurant suggesting that he order chicken, because there, “it’s no secret that black people have a soft spot for chicken”.
  The relationship between African descent and chicken is well known, and perhaps because of this, the white Harland Sanders can successfully market fried chicken in the form of a KFC chain and develop it into a global business. It is said that in the 1930s, Sanders took over a gas station and began to provide “tired travelers” with his fried chicken from snacks to big ones. The pressure-fried chicken method allowed him to produce these foods quickly and in large quantities. Over time, he improved the recipe and authorized the first KFC franchise store in Salt Lake City in 1952.
  African-American entrepreneurs tried to “take back” the fried chicken market, but they were not completely successful. In the 1960s, a national fried chicken chain hoping to challenge KFC invited American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to promote the store’s products to African-Americans, and invited white comedian Minnie Pearl to join the team. This fried chicken is sold to white customers. But in the end, Colonel KFC (just an honorary title) won, just as he defeated most of the other competitors. At present, KFC has opened 25,000 branches in more than 145 countries and regions around the world. It is estimated that the colonel himself cannot count how many chickens he has.

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