I love chicken wings! I really do. Tasty little morsels of goodness; they’re versatile, portable and quick. Any food with its own handle has my vote. Buffalo, Chinese, Sweet & Sour, breaded, marinated, BBQ, I love them all, if they are well-prepared.
Years ago, in the 1970s to the early ’80s, I worked in the poultry industry. As a result, I know the difference between a “fryer”, a “broiler”, and a “roaster”. I can tell you what makes a chicken “leg” different from a “leg quarter”. Rest assured, I know what a chicken “wing” is. It consists of three, — count ’em THREE — distinct segments: the tip, that’s the small end most of us cut off and throw away, the more culinarily adept will use them to make stock; then there is the flat, or half, which is the middle portion, and the drummette. The drummette happens to be my favorite portion.
During my time in the “biz”, my primary customers were Chinese restaurants in southern New England. I saw many kitchens; I saw many chickens in various stages of dismemberment. I also sampled many wings. Spices and flavors varied, but one thing was always the same; every chicken had TWO wings. Two WHOLE wings!
This knowledge made life as it relates to chicken wings simple. When I ordered a Pu Pu Platter at my favorite Chinese restaurant (Kowloon in Saugus, Ma.), I got four wings with it. Four drummettes, connected to four halves, which were also connected to four tips. Some restaurants would whack the tips off before cooking, I guess it saved on the sauce and space; no great loss there, but an order of four wings was FOUR WINGS. Many chefs went the extra mile and made a gentle little chop at the joint between the drummette and the half, making it easy to break apart when you eat them. Some even cut the wings right in half, when this was done, four wings was eight pieces. This leads me to the conundrum.
CONUNDRUM: a riddle, puzzle, enigma, mystery. Here is the question; just how many wings does a chicken have . . . if you are inclined to jump to your feet and say “Two!”, not so fast. I challenge you to go where ever you like; pick up twenty wings. Go ahead, I’ll wait. . . .
Okay, you’re back. That was quick. Now count, go ahead, I’ll wait . . . TWENTY! Great! Twenty what . . . twenty wings? I think not.
What you are looking at is likely TEN wings, minus the tip and then cut in half. Now, look more closely. If the person who packed your order was paying attention, you have ten drummettes and ten halves. Perhaps, due either to inattentiveness or job dissatisfaction, you got a total of twenty-two pieces. No doubt you consider this a big score! But how many chickens made the supreme sacrifice for your twenty-piece pig-out-to-go? Not ten! More likely FIVE!
BIRD OR INSECT?
I neither claim nor pretend to be an Entomologist (Bug Expert). But I know a bug when I swat one, and I have never been tempted to deep-fry anything with four wings! If a chicken is a bird, even a land-based bird, it will yield two wings. Cut them into itty-bitty little pieces and what you should end up with is still TWO WINGS! Granted, they will have lost much of their appeal after doing this, but you get the point. Try this, go somewhere and order twenty wings. Of course this is code for ten wings cut in half. Let’s assume the bill comes to ten dollars. Smack down ten dollars in quarters and tell the cashier you want to bump the order up to eighty wings. Hey, if it works for wings it should work for money, right?
Needless to say, at some point an evil plot was hatched: to cut a wing in half and call it two. It is a conspiracy which has poisoned the marketplace. Virtually everywhere you go, it has become the norm. Three wings are called six, ten are called twenty. If that logic holds water, one could make the argument that if you have the intent, and the knife skills, a chicken could qualify as a quadruped (four-legged creature) or even a spider!
I am quite sure that I am not alone in my outrage. I have noticed that many places now sell orders of wings as ten or twenty “pieces”. Perhaps they had to deal with too many people like me and got tired of giving away free wings under the threat of false advertising. Or maybe they did not need another lesson in Zoology (the study of animals). Whatever the case, they seem to be convinced that a chicken will yield four wings. That would certainly help to keep up with the demand for the desirable little delights. In fact, work has been done to genetically engineer four-winged chickens just for that reason.
IT IS WHAT IT IS . . . UNTIL IT ISN’T
Recently, I picked up an order of ten wings, hot and spicey, to go. I got them home fully expecting to have five wings cut into ten pieces. I was shocked! What I had was five wings alright; but they didn’t even cut them in half! Neither did they cut off the tip! No effort was made to fake anyone out by cutting them! They simply called five whole wings ten. My first thought was to go back for the rest of my order; then, of course after my tirade to my wife, I took a breath, shrugged, and chuckled. It was a little refreshing actually. Finally, the mask was off! Alas, a chicken IS a bug. Life as it relates to chicken wings is once again simple. Now, I just prepare them myself at home.