Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird

Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird

by Emelyn Rude


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From the domestication of the bird nearly ten thousand years ago to its current status as our go-to meat, the history of this seemingly commonplace bird is anything but ordinary.

How did chicken achieve the culinary ubiquity it enjoys today? It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in history, not terribly long ago, that individual people each consumed less than ten pounds of chicken per year. Today, those numbers are strikingly different: we consumer nearly twenty-five times as much chicken as our great-grandparents did.

Collectively, Americans devour 73.1 million pounds of chicken in a day, close to 8.6 billion birds per year. How did chicken rise from near-invisibility to being in seemingly "every pot," as per Herbert Hoover's famous promise?

Emelyn Rude explores this fascinating phenomenon in Tastes Like Chicken. With meticulous research, Rude details the ascendancy of chicken from its humble origins to its centrality on grocery store shelves and in restaurants and kitchens. Along the way, she reveals startling key points in its history, such as the moment it was first stuffed and roasted by the Romans, how the ancients’ obsession with cockfighting helped the animal reach Western Europe, and how slavery contributed to the ubiquity of fried chicken today.

In the spirit of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork, Tastes Like Chicken is a fascinating, clever, and surprising discourse on one of America’s favorite foods.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681771632
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 08/02/2016
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Emelyn Rude has been a food writer for TIME andVice and media manager for some of New York City’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs. She is a contributor to National Geographic’s"The Plate" and is a National Geographic Young Explorer. This is her first book.

Table of Contents

A Fowl Introduction ix

1 The Early Bird 1

2 A Healing Broth 12

3 The General Chicken Merchants 27

4 Of Chicken and Champagne 40

5 The Poor Man's Chicken 55

6 America's EGG Basket 68

7 Calories and Constituents 84

8 The Kosher Chicken Wars 95

9 Celia Steele's Modest Endeavor 108

10 They Saw in Hens a Way 121

11 A Chicken for Every Grill 130

12 A Nugget Worth More Than Gold 149

13 The Tale of the Colonel and the General 166

14 The Modern Chicken 181

The End and the Beginning 193

Endnotes 201

Recipe Citations 239

Photography Permissions 245

Bibliography 249

Acknowledgments 265

Index 267

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Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley, Emelyn Rude, and Pegasus Books. Thank you all for sharing this extraordinary history with me. Chickens are again very popular in American kitchens - and backyards. The last few years we have seen a massive return to the days of a coop in the back yard to provide GMO-free, pesticide-free, antibiotic-free eggs and chicken to American tables. Of course, few of us will actually kill and pluck and drain and clean our Hennie Pennies. But the eggs are awesome. This is a complex, informative and at times humorous history of the chicken in the settlement and growth of America. We follow the chicken from the colonial days when backyard chickens and their eggs added to Mom's work load and pin money, to the mega-factories producing millions of eggs, or millions of broiler chickens a week, around the world. One would think this to be a smooth, continuous climb through history. Emelyn Rude through meticulous research shares with us the fact that it was anything but a smooth journey. We see the rapid expansion of the need and popularity of chicken, once classified as a non-meat as is fish, as a religious preference and during wartimes and depressions and recessions and fad diets. And we see the chicken businesses grow, and then fail as prosperity and peace brings back the preferences for beef and pork in our diet. We see the effects on city lives as Americans work toward providing a 'chicken in every pot' and the drama of chicken unionizations and chicken Mafias and chicken monopolies and the effect of cheap chicken on poverty, both in America and around the world. And the one fact that has traveled through time, despite mega millions of chickens providing essential, nutritious protein throughout that world, is that it is still very easy to lose your shirt in the chicken business. This is a book I will recommend to my friends and family - especially those with chicken coops in the back yard. Keep those eggs coming, Ladies.