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Iconic American Food Series-Buffalo Wings

It wasn’t all that long ago that the humble chicken wing was considered undesirable and even discarded. With little meat, plenty of fatty skin and few redeeming qualities, chicken wings were rarely ever consumed. That is, until a Friday night in 1964, in a humble restaurant and bar in Buffalo called the Anchor Bar, when owner Teressa Bellissimo was asked by her son Dominic who was bartending at the time, to cook a late-night snack for his friends who showed up at the bar with ravenous appetites.  She grabbed some chicken wings, a part of the chicken that usually went into the stock pot for soup, and deep fried them, smothered them in a sauce of her creation and served them with blue cheese dip and celery. The result was a near-overnight success that has taken the world by storm.

Traditionally, Buffalo wings are deep fried and then smothered in a sauce which is a combination of melted butter, cayenne pepper and hot sauce. For many years they remained a regional food but by the mid 1980s, chicken wings could be found on menus across the country. Today, chicken wings are found on nearly every sport bar, pub, family-restaurant and diner menu. There is even a two-day annual National Buffalo Wing Festival to celebrate the invention of this most loved food.

Chicken wings can be found breaded and deep fried, Buffalo style (unbreaded), and because of huge demand they even sell boneless “wings” which are actually chicken breast strips with Buffalo sauce. Sauces are limited only by the imagination and can include lemon pepper, honey mustard, garlic, parmesan and herb, raspberry chipotle and many, many more. Of course purists insist on the original formula of butter, cayenne pepper and hot sauce, which can be found bottled and on grocery store shelves in nearly every city for the intrepid home cook.

According to the National Chicken Council, more than 100 million pounds of wings were consumed during the 2012 Superbowl Weekend. That’s roughly 1.25 billion wing segments; 23 percent of all Superbowl viewers will consume this tasty snack.  Americans love Buffalo wings so much that they are adding Buffalo chicken to pizza, and sandwich wraps, and Buffalo-style flavoring is starting to show up in other products such as potato chips and popcorn.  America’s love for chicken wings is like a rags to riches story with a very happy ending. From being discarded and unwanted to appearing on menus all across the nation, the chicken wing has gained a favored place among other menu items and is here to stay.

All photos by Steve our C.E.O. (Chief Eating Officer)  Click photos to enlarge