The story of chicken wings and Jewish Detroit is an interesting one.
I apologize. I should have written this Looking Back earlier this month. My subject — chicken wings — would have been perfect reading for Super Bowl weekend.
I know, I know. You are asking yourself — why the heck would he write about chicken wings?
Well, I decided to explore the subject after reading an article about Masbia, a New York kosher emergency food provider. It was experiencing a severe shortage of kosher chicken wings, which are a cheap source of good protein. Moreover, the shortage was Super Bowl-related since chicken wings are a popular party food and TV-watching sports snack and, according to the National Chicken Council, “the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer.”
A search in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History bears out the popularity of chicken wings. I found 233 pages that mention chicken wings and another 18 that cite Buffalo wings, that hot and spice variety of chicken wings invented in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.
Now, to be sure, chicken wing mentions in the JN are most often found in grocery store or kosher meat market advertisements. Indeed, the first citation for chicken wings was an ad for Reisman’s Kosher Poultry Market on Seven Mile in Detroit ($.49 per pound) in the Oct. 23, 1964, issue of the JN. And, by the way, long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Reisman’s would deliver your food to you.
The first mention of restaurant chicken wings was in Danny Raskin’s “Best of Everything” column in the Nov. 3, 1967, issue of the JN. It seems that Danny had taken a fancy to the fare at the Golden Galleon, which included “Tahitian Drums of Heaven,” which he described as tasty “barbequed chicken wings made into tiny drumsticks.”
Over the past 40 years, chicken wings have become increasingly popular in restaurants. It is a rare tavern or family-style restaurant that does not offer chicken wings. Proof of this can be found in numerous columns by Danny Raskin, and other JN food writers over the years such as Ryan Fishman and Esther Allweiss Ingber, that mention chicken wings in their restaurant reviews.
Then, there are the chicken wings in the home. A family profile in the April 4, 1999, JN features Noah and Cherie Levi and their kids — Lani, Estee, Raffi and Chava Reena — and their weekly Shabbat celebrations. While their menu varied, there was always one staple on it. You guessed it. Chicken wings! The kids loved them. Now that the kids are older, I wonder if they still eat their chicken wings on Friday night?
Finally, there are the recipes that have been published over the years. See Betty Rosbottom’s “Hot and Sassy Wings” in the March 3, 1997, issue of the JN. Or for an Asian twist, see the recipe for Teriyaki Wings (Dec. 6, 1985). This was the earliest publication of a chicken wing recipe that I could find. Or as a munchie for the Super Bowl, “Brown Sugar Glazed Lemon Ginger Chicken Wings” (Feb. 3, 2011).
The story of chicken wings and Jewish Detroit is an interesting one. Perhaps, it could be considered another perfect pairing?
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.