On chickens,

Jackson Landers on Slate sets out to determine “when life began tasting like chicken?” which plays on the idea that rarely-eaten meats are often described as tasting like chicken. The answer is 350 million years ago, according to Landers because fish decidedly don’t taste like chicken, but alligators do, and alligators first appeared about 250 million years ago, and… Well, the first fish to come ashore was 350 million years ago… So… Anyway, here’s why fish DON’T taste like chicken:

Several barriers prevent fish from tasting like chicken. A chemical called trimethylamine, which develops after a fish dies and creates that distinctly fishy flavor and odor, is a big one. Texture also plays a role: Fishes’ muscle structure is different from chickens’. Fish muscles are typically arranged in bands along the sides of the body and are separated by relatively less connective tissue than what is found in the muscle of their evolutionary descendants. These bands of muscle are what make cooked fish flaky. Fish muscles are relatively simple because all they have to do to move through water is perform a sort of sideways flopping motion. The muscles of land-dwellers like chickens, lizards, and frogs are more specialized and are designed for the more varied movement of individual limbs.

Also, Slate writers are the best at making their friends look like idiots.

I posed a question for a group of friends on Facebook, asking them whether they thought Cornish game hens taste like chicken. Some of the respondents were adamant that the little birds have their own flavor and texture that hardly resembles chicken. What I didn’t mention when I asked the question was the fact that Cornish game hens are simply ordinary chickens slaughtered at a younger age. Our idea of what chicken tastes like seems to be as informed by our expectations as by our palate.

And here’s Smithsonian Mag going long on the history of chickens. I love their food writing.

The domesticated chicken has a genealogy as complicated as the Tudors, stretching back 7,000 to 10,000 years and involving, according to recent research, at least two wild progenitors and possibly more than one event of initial domestication. The earliest fossil bones identified as possibly belonging to chickens appear in sites from northeastern China dating to around 5400 B.C., but the birds’ wild ancestors never lived in those cold, dry plains. So if they really are chicken bones, they must have come from somewhere else, most likely Southeast Asia. The chicken’s wild progenitor is the red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, according to a theory advanced by Charles Darwin and recently confirmed by DNA analysis. The bird’s resemblance to modern chickens is manifest in the male’s red wattles and comb, the spur he uses to fight and his cock-a-doodle-doo mating call. The dun-colored females brood eggs and cluck just like barnyard chickens. In its habitat, which stretches from northeastern India to the Philippines, G. gallus browses on the forest floor for insects, seeds and fruit, and flies up to nest in the trees at night. That’s about as much flying as it can manage, a trait that had obvious appeal to humans seeking to capture and raise it. This would later help endear the chicken to Africans, whose native guinea fowls had an annoying habit of flying off into the forest when the spirit moved them.

On chickens,

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