Sometimes a good festival can put a focus on just why we get so fired up about certain foods.
This weekend, fried chicken gets its turn, as the Fried Chicken Festival returns to Woldenberg Park along the French Quarter riverfront.
This event is a gathering of the tribes of fried chicken lovers, and they are many.
What unites them? Well, between the crunchy skin and the juicy meat there are common themes for our fried chicken fascination.
One: The appeal of fried chicken is universal, but the particulars behind it are highly personal. Saying you love fried chicken isn't enough. It's like saying you’re into rock and roll. You have to go deeper, name names.
Before New Orleans had much of a barbecue scene, there was already fierce pride and rivalry around fried chicken. Recipes, techniques, seasoning -- people talked about their fried chicken the way others approach their ribs. Or, just as importantly, they refuse to talk about them at all. People have their favorites, and they have their secrets.
Our second storyline here: Fried chicken is a Southern classic, but it’s also open for interpretation and other global traditions. You can get creative with it and not get laughed out of the room. Make it a sandwich, a slider, a po-boy. Pair it with waffles, bacon, fries, tacos. Fried chicken can be the main act or a gratuitous garnish and it remains compelling.
And finally, reason number three for the fried chicken fixation: beyond comfort food, fried chicken is social food. It’s made in big batches, it’s portable, and no utensils are required. You probably shouldn’t dig into the stuff daily, but at family events, on parade routes and at game day gatherings fried chicken feels right at home. At its best, it’s food for good times.
Fried chicken is an indulgence, but one that’s down home and as approachable as a hug from a loving aunt.
Put that all together in one box, and it’s no wonder New Orleans is ready to throw a party for fried chicken.