Saturday, April 25, 2020


These last two narrative lenses were especially evident in the most recent two episodes that I watched on barbecue and fried chicken. There were discussions on why there are arguments about different types of barbecue, different types of sauce and seasoning, different meats of choice. And then there was a careful examination of the fraught history of fried chicken in America and the stereotypical weight that this food has for African Americans--and Chang's own lack of understanding of that history from his own cultural background and childhood.

Such a discussion made me examine my own problems with this question.

So often, the people making excellent examples of this food are doing so outside of my cultural experience and my neighborhoods. My connection to the style of Nashville hot chicken is a suburbanized version of it in Columbus (Hot Chicken Takeover). But according to Chang and other articles I have read on the food, the original version can be claimed by Nashville's Boyland's Chicken. It started becoming mainstream (i.e. gentrified and suburbanized and consumed by whites) thanks to Nashville's Hattie B's. And then it spread beyond Nashville and across the country.

Fried chicken, as with barbecue, can be found everywhere--from KFC to City Barbecue, from Ray Rays to Popeyes. But these mass-produced foods are templatized and popularized so that I can eat a simulacrum of the food without going outside of my own comfort zone. I know there are delicious barbecue places in Columbus where wonderful meats being smoked in rundown cinderblock buildings in neighborhoods I don't frequent. I know there is great fried chicken being made in soul food restaurants I've never heard of. And the reason I don't seek them out and the reason that I don't visit them is because I am scared.

I'm not physically scared. I'm emotionally scared. I'm hesitant to be there because I can only imagine--and I am only imagining--what it would be like. I presuppose what the usually minority visitors to such restaurants would think of me. 

And that is 1000 percent MY FAULT. 

Who am I to assume anything about any of them? But I carry that hesitancy with me even if I never test it out in reality. And it prevents me from fully experiencing the world. And it denies me the chance to be better. And I don't have a real point here except to put it down in public and to try and be slightly honest about what I thought when I watched it. And maybe start the process of challenging myself to change.

That's it.

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