Chicken Sandwich War

Perhaps it is only fitting this day and age. It seems there is nothing more American than being divided over something. This week it’s a chicken sandwich.

Popeyes announced their version on Twitter last week: “Chicken. Brioche. Pickles. New. Sandwich. Popeyes. Nationwide. So. Good. Forgot. How. Speak. In. Complete. Sandwiches. I mean, sentences.” 

And from that moment, it was ON. People began ardently advocating for their favorite sandwich, whether it be the new-kid-on-the-block Popeyes one, or the Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A versions.

And the social media managers for the companies reveled in the green light to talk smack to each other.

“We Didn’t Invent The Chicken, Just The Chicken Sandwich!” Chick-fil-A bragged on Twitter. “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the ❤️ for the original.”

To which Wendy’s responded: “Ya’ll out here talking about which of these fools has the second best chicken sandwich.”

Popeye’s quick retort: “Sounds like someone just ate one of our biscuits. Cause ya’ll looking thirsty.” (Which frankly seemed as if they were bragging about dry over-salted biscuits? Wendy’s thought so, too, tweeting, “lol, guess that means the food’s dry as the jokes.”)

Food Critics Weigh In

I became aware of the chicken sandwich war while reading an article in The New Yorker. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker’s roving food correspondent, chronicles it in The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Is Here to Save America.

The Popeyes chicken sandwich has ascended to the pantheon in record time, not because of a catchy ad campaign or an irresistible pricing scheme but because it is, if Twitter, Instagram, and uncountable blog posts and off-the-cuff reviews are to be believed, the best goddam chicken sandwich in the world. For the past few days, my social-media feeds—which, most of the time, read like bleak, polyphonic litanies of the falling-apart world—have been overwhelmed instead by discourse about the sandwich.

I’ve watched friends and strangers go through the stages of enlightenment: skepticism, curiosity, anticipation, capitulation, ecstasy. It was, specifically, the ecstasy of Nia-Raquelle Smith, a scholar and food writer in Brooklyn, that pushed me out the door and into my nearest Popeyes. “That Popeyes sandwich had me in my feelings. That’s probably the most emotion I’ve shown all year,” she tweeted, and went on to enumerate its additional virtues: “The chicken is perfectly fried! The breading isn’t falling off. You get crunch in every bite!” The bun is “a buttery cushion”; the sauce “takes it over the top. Is it healthy? NO! But dammit don’t it taste good. It’s truly a gift from the heavens.”

The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Posted in Current Events | 2 Comments

Three Days of Peace and Music

50 years ago today, the last of the faithful Woodstock attendees heard the festival’s final performance. The Woodstock Festival, held August 1969, was a watershed moment in the 1960s. The three-day music concert drew an estimated 500,000. Early estimates of attendance increased from 50,000 to around 200,000. However, by the time the gates opened on Friday, August 15, more than 400,000 people were clamoring to get in. 

Tickets for the three-day event cost $18 in advance and $24 at the gate (equivalent to about $120 and $160 today. Those without tickets simply walked through gaps in the fences. The organizers were eventually forced to make the event free of charge. 

The original venue plan was for the festival to take place in Wallkill, New York. After residents shot down that idea, concert promoters thought they had found another possible location in Saugerties, NY. After Saugerties and Wallkill declined to provide a venue for the festival, a local dairy farmer, Max Yasgur leased one of his farm’s fields for a fee that festival sponsors said was $10,000. The late change in venue did not give the festival organizers enough time to prepare. They put all remaining available resources into building the stage. In fact, it wasn’t completed until the first musician was performing.

Lost in the haze of 1960s nostalgia is the fact that Woodstock was a traffic-snarled, rain-soaked, mud-caked mess. Woodstock could have been one of the greatest disasters in human history. On Sunday, high-voltage cables became unearthed during a massive thunderstorm. Thankfully, this did not result in mass electrocutions. Also, when food stands ran out of food. local residents emptied their pantries and farmers donate eggs. The US military also sent helicopters full of doctors to help festival-goers with medical needs. 

Max Yasgur Addresses the Crowd

The 60s were arguably the most divisive, turbulent decade in 20th Century America. It brought a backdrop of an unpopular Vietnam war, illegal drugs, and widespread government distrust. It was a decade of rebellion. But the hippies just wanted to get away, listen to music, and spend time with kindred spirits. Ironically, it took a conservative Republican who supported the Vietnam War to pull it off. Max Yasgur felt that the Woodstock festival could help business at his farm and also tame the generation gap. But perhaps this humble farmer captured the mood when he addressed the crowd on the final day: 

I’m a farmer. I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world–not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that, you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth.

Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you’re taken care of… they’d enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids–and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you–a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God bless you for it!

So each of us gets to decide what version of Woodstock we want to remember. I have to admit, I am a little bit envious of those who were there in 1969. One person returning to that small patch of land last week remarked: “It just wouldn’t happen like that today,” she said. “Because of the environment in the world, people would be worried to have it so loose.” But for one weekend the planets aligned and a generation of idealists enjoyed Three Days of Love and Music.

Posted in Almanac | 4 Comments

The Heat Is On

Yesterday was the sixth straight 100-degree day in San Antonio. Also, the forecast for this week is more of the same with the possibility of more record highs. Thank God we have air conditioning. To add insult to injury, we haven’t had any measurable rainfall in over a month. 

I must admit, I am a weather report junkie. The only reason I watch local news is for the weather report. This summer seems particularly harsh, with deadly heat occurring where it isn’t expected, even in Europe. For example, Paris had their hottest day ever in July.    

A weather pattern sometimes called the “ring of fire” is bringing a searing heatwave to parts of the South while also contributing to periods of rain and thunderstorms that will last into next week. Meteorologists use the term “ring of fire” to describe an occasional summertime weather pattern.

I feel the pain of athletes and high school band musicians practicing for football season. Coaches and band teachers require Summer practice, even though school hasn’t started. At least they start early each morning.

Posted in Current Events | 2 Comments