I don’t know where to begin. And, since I don’t know where to begin, I’ll begin from the beginning — the first time I realized I don’t really like chicken all that much.
It was a little over a year ago. I was at the Cheesecake Factory, set to order the shrimp and bacon club. A bit of context: The only entree I’ve ever ordered at the Cheesecake Factory is the shrimp and bacon club. In fact, an episode of Oprah where Chris Rock called the Cheesecake Factory’s shrimp and bacon club his favorite sandwich is the only reason I even started going to the Cheesecake Factory. Until hearing that, I had no idea the Cheesecake Factory sold anything other than cheesecake.
Anyway, as a pure thought exercise, I cracked open the 232 page long menu, just to see what I’d order if I didn’t order the shrimp and bacon club. I considered a few seafood options, a few beef/steak options, and a couple pork options. There was even a turkey burger or some shit that looked halfway appealing. But none of the 29 or so chicken-related options were even considered. No chicken salads, no chicken sandwiches, and no chicken-flavored cheesecakes.
I then tried to recall a time I ordered chicken at any restaurant where other meats were available. I couldn’t. If both chicken and something other than chicken are menu options, I always choose something other than chicken. Always. This led to an epiphany: I really don’t like chicken all that much. I don’t dislike it all. It’s just not…essential. If I went my entire life without ever eating chicken again — if some random ass alien decided to kidnap every chicken from Earth — I’d just continue living my life. Of course, I’d wonder why the alien went through all the trouble of invading this planet just to steal some fucking chickens, but I wouldn’t miss them. I’d just be confused.
Of course, I’ve been to KFC numerous times and I was thisclose to having Chick Fil A nuggets at my wedding. Also, just last Friday I ordered chicken wings and calamari at a bar and then went to a birthday party where chicken wings and pizza were served and then took some of the extra wings home. But, fried chicken is a different animal. (Sometimes literally.) My interest in it is more about the skin, the seasoning, the various sauces used to accentuate, and the process of eating it more than the actual chicken meat. Because, if you isolate the actual chicken meat, actual chicken meat just isn’t all that good.
Ironically, I enjoy the chicken-related meals I enjoy — chicken wings, chicken soup/stew, etc — precisely because chicken meat itself isn’t all that good. The relative blandness of it gives it versatility. Where certain types of fish or beef might be too overpowering if placed in a stew or potpie, chicken works because it blends with the other ingredients and provides texture. Same could be said about chicken wings, which somehow manages to be breaded, rubbed in Cajun salt, fried, rubbed in more Cajun salt, dipped in hot sauce, dipped in ranch and not be overpowering. Chicken might not be all that good, but it is magic.
Surprisingly, navigating life as Black person who doesn’t really like chicken all that much hasn’t really been that difficult. Sure, there have been instances where older Black women shamed me into saying I wanted more chicken when I didn’t really want more chicken. And by “instances” I mean “this shit happened last month.” I was at a relative’s house, I took two pieces of chicken, and an older relative asked if I wanted more chicken with a look that said “you’re either going to eat more chicken or I’m going to beat you with it.” Since I’ve never been beat with a chicken breast before and wish to make it through my entire life without getting beat with a chicken breast, I took and ate another chicken breast.
But this is really the extent of my troubles. Occasionally I have to eat more chicken than I originally planned to. And I figure any Black card demerits received for not loving poultry are canceled out each time I eat chitlins. In fact, I’m thinking the frozen bucket of chitlins in my freezer now (Yes. There really is a frozen bucket of chitlins in my freezer.) gives me unadulterated Blackness until at least 2037.
By that time, maybe I’ll be ready to order something different at the Cheesecake Factory. Not chicken, though.