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POULTRY POWER: THE FRIED CHICKEN CHRONICLES

Man and Rooster 1904 Stereoview

"Juicy, crispy, crunchy...fried chicken is undoubtedly delicious. But it's also complicated, in ways that go far deeper than the science behind that perfect crust. From slavery to entrepreneurship and from yard fowl to Gospel bird, the story of fried chicken is filled with challenging contradictions. Grab a drumstick and listen in.

"2016 is, according to Eater, the year of the fried chicken. America is in the middle of a "fast casual fried chicken explosion," while Britain's transatlantic love for Southern-style fried chicken is being blamed for the decline of traditional roast beef. Meanwhile, Korean, Japanese, and many other global variations on the battered bird are finding new fans in the West, too.

"Inspired, Gastropod decided to take a closer look at the science and history behind this iconic dish. It turns out the origins of fried chicken are largely unknown, according to John T. Edge, author of Fried Chicken: An American Story. Psyche Williams-Forson, author of Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power, says that, while we can no longer be sure whether it was African slaves or Southerners of European descent who first decided to bread and fry these stringy yardbirds, we do know that West Africans have a tradition of frying food in hot oil, and that fried chicken as we know it today originated in the South."

Gastropod is a bimonthly podcast that looks at food through the lense of science and history. Read more and listen to complete episode of "Poultry Power: The Fried Chicken Chronicles" on the Gastropod website.

American Studies professor  Psyche Williams-Forson  is associate professor and chair of American Studies at the University of Maryland and the author of "Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food & Power" from University of North Carolina Press. Her research and teaching interests include cultural studies, material culture, food, women’s studies, social and cultural history of the U.S. in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

IMAGE: Stereoview image c. 1904 (from the collection of Psyche Williams-Forson via Gastropod

Date of Publication: 
7/12/16