I saw a poster last November that read, “No matter what happens this month, at least you’re not a turkey.” It’s true, November 27th is a terrible day if you are a turkey; it’s a day to suppress the noisy gobbling, abandon the thrashing in the bushes looking for food, and just stay hidden in a tree and avoid being seen by any pilgrims roaming the forest. But the good news for turkeys is that Thanksgiving only comes once a year and turkey consumption drops in half for every month other than November (from 2.5 lbs/person to 1.2 lbs/person). Chickens are not so lucky, and a large part of the blame is those skinny, useless wings. Chicken wing consumption in the U.S. has grown steadily, topping 3 Billion pounds (13.5 Billion wings) consumed in 2012! And while there is a spike in chicken wing consumption during the Superbowl, statistics show a steady consumption throughout the year (National Chicken Council). That’s not bad for a chicken part that was considered worthless and therefore originally sold at a deep discount. Just think, if you eat just 6 chicken wings, that appetizer cost the lives of 3 whole chickens! That means that in 2012, 6.75 billion chickens were sacrificed just to support the buffalo wing industry. Whoa, not a great era to be a chicken!
Americans love food that does not love you back, and wings are near the top of the list. For me, chicken wings are my Achilles heel of fitness. I’m pretty sure my love for wings has raised my cholesterol level by an unhealthy percentage, but yet I keep coming back for more! And you can’t really enjoy the wings without a basket of fries and a cold beer. To make sure I get my veggies, I eat the carrot and celery strips, dipped in blue cheese of course. Ah, now I feel healthier.
To the dismay of many a chef, chicken wings seem to be near the top of the list for culinary menu items. Wings used to be an appetizer at late night bars, but now we see restaurants across the country that are dedicated to this delicatessen. I’m still a big fan of the classic buffalo sauce, with some Jamaican jerk sprinkled in, but wings now come in many flavors and cooking methods. “Waitress, can I get a skinny garlic wing with a double shot of Frank’s Red-hot sauce, to go.” Flavors range from honey BBQ to buffalo, and heat levels range from wimpy to melt-your-face-off. A friend and I once ordered the 911-suicide wings at a college town bar. “Have you ever had our 911-suicide wings before?” the barmaid asked. “No, but I’m an experienced wing eater,” I answered, “I’m pretty sure we can handle it.” After just 3 wings, I could no longer feel my tongue or taste my beer. And we had ordered 50 wings! I felt the effects of those wings for days to come.
So why do we eat wings with such furry? There are many reasons:
- Scoring a new T-shirt that proudly confirms we conquered the wing challenge.
- Getting our picture prominently displayed on the wing champion wall behind the bar.
- We are practicing for a tryout on Man vs Food.
- We just know that our future spouse is somewhere in this restaurant and they will be mightily impressed by our eating skills.
Whatever the reasons, we are a wing nation, and we have the clogged arteries, ulcer’d stomachs, and swollen lips to prove it. Our love of hot and spicy bar food has helped put the turkey squarely in the number 2 position for poultry dishes. So if you happen to be a chicken, watch out, Mr. Purdue may be looking for you!
Reply with your favorite wing flavor or wing experience.
“The appetizer is just an excuse for an extra meal. Let’s see, I will start with the eighty buffalo wings.” – Jim Gaffigan