Forget about the trade war with China. The Chicken Wars are way more entertaining, and not nearly as stressful. Who knew that fried chicken could make such a splash in the news?
First it was Popeyes, a franchise out of Louisiana. I didn’t misspell it. They don’t use an apostrophe. The original owner, Al Copeland, claimed he was too poor to afford one. He also claimed he named his fried chicken chain after a character in the movie “The French Connection,” and not the cartoon sailor. If you believe that you probably believe the candy bar was named after President Grover Cleveland’s baby daughter and not the ball player — even though she was born in 1891 and the candy was named in 1920, the year The Bambino happened to hit 59 home runs.
At any rate, the fried chicken chain eventually paid King Syndicate a lot of money to put Olive Oyl’s boyfriend on their merchandise for 35 years.
Truth be known, I have only eaten Popeyes fried chicken once. I didn’t like it. Too spicy for my taste. I’ll stick with his spinach. But they have been in the news lately because they put a new item on their menu. A chicken sandwich.
I don’t know if the chicken sandwich is good, bad or mediocre, but I know that a lot of people who frequent Popeyes have wanted to find out. Therein lies the rub. Most of the chain’s restaurants have been running out of the new product each day, causing customers to become disappointed and downright irate, and opening the franchise up for scorn and even ridicule in this age of mass communication via social media.
I saw one post from a store in an undisclosed location that read, “Limit 2 ‘sandwishes’ per customer. We only make 175 ‘sandwishes’ per day.”
Apparently, spelling is not any better at Popeyes than it was when Al Copeland started the business back in 1972. Or maybe they just “wish” they made more sandwiches. At any rate, this shortage inspired a tweet from Chick-fil-A, whose founder Truett Cathy always claimed, “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich.” The tweet was to the effect “We never run out of chicken sandwiches.”
And they don’t.
Not to be outdone in all of this, KFC, or the organization formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, entered into the fray by announcing that it would begin selling chicken that is not chicken at all, but rather a plant-based chicken substitute. That sound you just heard was Harlan Sanders rolling over in his grave. Some things are just wrong, and selling fake chicken at a place that once prided itself on “doing chicken right” is one of them.
As you might expect, all of this talk about fried chicken made me hungry for some real Southern fried chicken, the way only my mama could make it. Since she has been gone for 20 years and since my lovely wife Lisa hasn’t been willing to heat a skillet since the last child left home nine years ago, I decided to cook myself a batch of my mama’s chicken. I still know how.
I went to the place where shopping is a pleasure, and picked out the smallest fryer I could find, which wasn’t really a fryer at all. Every chicken you can find is a Dolly Parton bird these days, if you know what I mean, and I am certain you do. But I found one that I thought would do. I wanted to cook this chicken just like my mama used to, so next I set out to find some lard.
That’s where I ran into a problem. I couldn’t find any.
I asked the girl who was stocking the shelf where I should look. I could tell by the blank look on her face that she had no clue what I was talking about. She wasn’t about to let that stop her from giving me an answer, however. She told me to look in either the meat or the seafood section.
I would have never thought to look for lard in the seafood section.
I didn’t find it on the meat aisle, however, so I asked the friendly girl at the seafood counter if she were familiar with lard. She thought I was talking about streak o’ lean. At least she knew it was pork.
She also knew to ask a manager, who informed us both that the store no longer carried lard because it was a health risk. So are cigarettes, but they still sell those, for 50 bucks a carton.
I was determined to fry my chicken — in lard. I went to the local cut-price food store, where shopping isn’t supposed to be a pleasure, necessarily, but prices are supposed to be cheap. I found a young man wearing a red apron whom I supposed worked there. I asked him where they kept the lard. He smiled and admitted that he didn’t know what lard was. “But I’m pretty new,” he added, by way of explanation.
I found a guy with hair the color of mine. He took me to the lard. It was right next to the pickled pig’s feet. I bought 2 pounds. I went home and fried my chicken in one and saved the other for next time.
The chicken, by the way, was delicious. I felt no compulsion to put it in a sandwich.