A Short History of Fried Chicken

Il pollo fritto è forse il piatto più tipico del sud degli Stati Uniti, ma le sue origini misteriose suggeriscono una sorprendente connessione con l'Africa e la Scozia.

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Many countries have their own fried chicken recipes: the Japanese have Tatsuta-age, the Senegalese chicken yassa, the Italians pollo fritto, and the Austrians Weiner Backhendl. The most famous fried chicken in the world, however, is American-style and associated with the Southern United States. This delicious, crispy and affordable dish is now so popular globally that three of the five fastest-growing restaurant franchises in the world are fried chicken chains. So, who do we have to thank for the lucrative recipe?

DEEP-FRYING TRADITION

American-style fried chicken was perfected and popularised by slaves who worked in American kitchens from the 17th to the 19th century. Some food historians have traced its roots back to their origin in West Africa, where it was a traditional dish. Other experts believe that the recipe might have travelled to America with Scottish settlers, who would have taken their love for deep-fried food with them. Later, slaves started to cook fried chicken according to the recipe of their Scottish slaveholders, improving it and making it part of their own culinary culture. 

AN ENTREPrENEURIAL SUCCESS

By the time the American Civil War broke out in 1861, fried chicken was a popular dish all over the South, and was eaten in both black and white American households. It was a lot of work to prepare, though, so it was reserved for special occasions, such as Sunday lunch straight after church. Many slaves had been allowed to raise chickens, and after emancipation, fried chicken became a means of income for them. The town of Gordonsville, Virginia became known as the Fried Chicken Capital of the World, as black entrepreneurs started selling fried chicken at the train station to hungry passengers. This way, the humble business of fried chicken helped many struggling people support their families.

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THE MODERN FRIED CHICKEN

Unfortunately, if predictably, the first American book that included a fried chicken recipe was written by a white woman, Mary Randolph; and the franchise that made the fried chicken business take flight was founded by a white man. In the 1950s, a businessman from Indiana called Colonel Harland David Sanders developed his own secret fried chicken recipe, and patented a method of frying chicken in a pressure fryer. By the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken was a big name all over America. Even today, US Southerners are still the most enthusiastic fried chicken ambassadors, spreading their love of the dish across the world.

 

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Questo articolo appartiene al numero Settembre 2023 della rivista Speak Up.

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