Chicken racks up some amazing statistics. These birds have been around for at least 10,000 years, some say as many as 17,000. Since 1900, their world population has been constantly close to 25 billion. Since most chickens today live less than 15 weeks, their population probably turns over several times a year.
Chickens have been as much about quality as quantity, too. According to Plato, Socrates’ last words were “I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?” In Aesop’s fables, even lions were afraid of chickens. Pope Gregory I declared chickens to be the symbol of Christianity. Pope Nicholas I ordered a rooster to be painted on every church steeple.
As a food, chickens have been associated with royalty and also as subsistence food. Herbert Hoover ran on the promise of “a chicken in every pot” in 1927. A few years later backyard chickens helped poor farmers through the Great Depression. Chicken and noodles became popular during that time, too, as a way to stretch food budgets.
In America, southerners seem to think they own the culinary rights to chicken. This issue of Relish disagrees. Our cover story delves into Iowa chicken history, particularly how chicken changed America and America changed chicken after WWII. We visit chicken chefs who specialize in appetizers, drink pairings, main course and appropriate desserts. We visit a chicken rancher who believes in free ranging. And, of course, The Dish is back with three months of food news and gossip. Bon appétit. RELISH
— Jim Duncan, editor
Jim Duncan has covered the food scene in Des Moines for more than 25 years. And he never met a dish he didn’t respect.