In Defense of Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles via
Chicken and Waffles via

Earlier today, I met my girlfriends extended family for the first time. If you’ve ever had the experience of what meeting another person’s entire family at once was like, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say it was a lot. There were the aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, the whole nine yards. In the first five minutes, they warned me they were a loud bunch. That’s when I knew I’d fit in fine.

As at all such gatherings of the generations, there were the subtly asked questions of, “When are y’all getting married?” (Not anytime soon) “What’s your plan for after college?” (no idea) and my personal favorite, “Anyone pregnant?” (again, no). There was the obligatory meeting of relatives, sharing of embarrassing family stories, and family game time. In case you’re wondering I came in third during family game time after a buzzer-beating shot snatched a second-place finish out from under me.

There was also food. A lot of food.

My girlfriend’s family is chocked full with wonderful cooks and her grandmother pulled out all the stops. There was a practical cornucopia waiting for us the second we walked in the door. But the star of the event was her famous chicken and waffles.

Now being from the South, you would think I would have grown up eating chicken and waffles every other Sunday. Well, you would be wrong. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t even heard of this delicious combination–and it is delicious–until about a year after I had moved to North Carolina.

It turns out there might be a pretty good reason for that. Chicken and waffles may be the one Southern dish Southerners reject as their own. John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, said it’s, “a Southern dish once or twice removed from the South.” He added the dish is most popular among Southerners now living in urban areas.

Reading Edge’s account of the dish’s history, things began to click. I wouldn’t ever really consider Murfreesboro, where I grew up, urban in any sense. I fact, I had hardly spent any time in a true urban area growing up. But I began venturing more often towards downtown Raleigh after I moved to North Carolina. And it’s there in downtown at Beasley’s Chicken and Honey where I discovered this wonderful “Southern” delicacy.

Now I have no idea when my girlfriend’s family started making the dish. I was far too busy enjoying what was easily some of the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had to ask. What I do know is there is no denying the deliciousness of such a strange combination of foods.

No matter where the dish is from, North, South, East, or West, like all good food it has a special power. Good food brings people together. That’s what it did for me today. And that is something we should all celebrate every day.