Frogs legs taste like chicken.
Rabbit tastes like chicken.
Sometimes the other white meat tastes like chicken.
Snake tastes like chicken (so I’m told).
But CHICKEN does not taste like CHICKEN. Any More.
This realization coming to me fully at a restaurant called El Espia in the Dominican Republic a while back, when I ordered pollo frito from the all Spanish menu. “Hm, yardbird,” my workmate said and I realized, yes, chickens were pecking all over outside. Well I’m for farm-to-table as much as the next gal, so sidewalk-pecking chicken for lunch was fine with me. Besides, I’d had their goat the day before and, although tasty, it had been a little rich on my stomach.
My lunch arrived; a big round white plate with shredded iceberg, sliced tomatoes and wedges of green avocado in the center, with six or so boneless chicken breasts arranged symmetrically from there. The breasts were thin and crisp around the edges, with a slight chewiness and a rich flavor. Like chicken you might say, my taste buds having been dulled over the years of eating our hormone-pumped, yellow-hued, over-sized, cage-contained, spongy junk we call chicken at home in the US.
When I was cooking in restaurants in the Seventies, chicken resembled chicken. Typically we kept flat boxes of boneless breasts, sized from six-ounce half-breasts for lunch portions, to eight-ounce double breasts we’d split in half for two four-ounce filets. They were opaque, petite and tender, and lightly flattened with a mallet, could be seasoned, floured and cooked in olive oil for the basis of a nice meal.
Now, a chicken “breast” from a grocery store has such a heft I can get two meals from one. I hold one up with a meat fork and say to my husband, “I wonder if this one wore a bra.” It’s too fat to flatten; if I want to make Marsala or Piccata, I need to cut slices from it like a pork loin. And of course it doesn’t taste like chicken. It tastes like. . . nothing at all.
So after a few years of complaining and whining how American companies are feeding us crap in the name of profits ––this is not at all news; buyer beware ––I now buy organic free range chicken. A LOT more money, unfortunately, but cheaper than say, flying to a third world country to get chicken that tastes like chicken.