By Tommy Wyatt
What better way to start off our Wingaddicts blog than to pull an original work from the archives of my life.
Long before we started the Wingaddicts, I was a writer. In fact, I was a sports writer for a local newspaper called The Newtown Bee in Newtown, CT. This past weekend I was looking through a box of old things in my basement and came upon a collection of newspaper columns I had written during my ten year career there (1988-1998). This one from 1994 jumped right out at me . . . it’s entitled “Wings!”
I cringe the poor writing of my younger self and am really embarrassed for my lack of wing knowledge! Enjoy!
The Newtown High School football team runs a Wing-T offense. The soccer, hockey, and field hockey teams have right and left wings. Track sprinters are said to have wings on their heels, and a great many sports teams (you can be sure) operate on a wing and a prayer. But the most notable wing in sports today, without question, is the chicken wing.
Also known as buffalo wings, this delicacy has become as much a part of sports television viewing as hotdogs are at the ballpark. They’re normally the top-selling item at sports bars (other than beer).
But there was a time not long ago, when you could buy a bag of raw chicken wings for ten cents a pound. Like chicken necks still are today, wings were afterthoughts; leftovers at the butcher shop. Nobody bothered to try and eat them on their own.
During the early 80’s, Frank Perdue or Colonel Sanders or somebody* decided to make chicken wings into an appetizer. They were smothered with barbecue sauce, or hot sauce, and dipped in bleu cheese salad dressing, the price went up tenfold, and the rest is history.
*(Actually, since this column was originally written before Google there was no real way for me to ascertain that buffalo wings actually started at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY - common knowledge today. Oh, and it was actually the 60’s.)
Today, everybody’s got his or her own chicken wing recipe. They’ll be found at any Super Bowl Party. You can order a batch at any bar or cafe. Some places offer the ten-cent wing specials to get you in the door. But whatever the catch, they all have them.
Macho foodies ask for them hot and some restaurants boast the “hottest” wings around. We’ve seen them classified as hot, hotter and hottest, mild, hot, and wild; and as suicide hot, volcano hot, and even Three Mile Island hot.
And when your lips are burning, forget about soda or beer as a coolant. They only make it worse. Milk, I’ve been told, is the correct prescription but just bring me the blue cheese, a little celery maybe, and a nice stack of paper towels and I’m a happy guy.
Wings occasionally come in whole parts, but normally come in two separate pieces. The little mini drumsticks (drums) and the two-piece side (flats). One of the nice things about wing eating is that you never need any silverware or utensils. Just your good old fashioned fingers. Table manners are out the window. Just roll up the sleeves and indulge. But be warned, do not order these on a first date.
The proper way to eat a chicken wing is by gripping it at one end, putting the entire wing into your mouth, and pulling the bare bone out through your teeth; somewhat like Garfield would do with a cartoon fish.
You can only do that, though, if the wings are cooked to the correct tenderness. If not, break the bones apart and get at the meat. The meat, anyway, isn’t the important thing. The sauce is what counts.
A ten-year connoisseur of hot wings, I’ve enjoyed them by the hundreds. The hottest I’d eaten, until last weekend, had been a friend’s secret recipe here at the office. They were basically wings soaked in a designer hot sauce called “Dave’s Insanity.” They were more hot than they were tasty.
In a cafe in New Seabury, Cape Cod last weekend, I was on a work trip with my wife and I had an audience. We had been drinking, of course, and sometimes I can become incorrigible. So, I ordered up some wings “as hot as you can make them.” In fact, I told the waitress to challenge the chef to make the hottest wings of his career and that I’d like to interview him afterward. By holding him accountable, I was sure not to get any wimpy wings.
When they arrived at the table, they looked like winners and I wasted no time in devouring the first.
The hottest wings, the real good ones, have been known to clear out the sinuses. Runny noses aren’t an uncommon reaction at all. But after this wing, this one wing, my nose started to bleed.
In my 30 years on this Earth, I’ve taken knees, elbows, and even basketballs to the nose and have never gotten a nosebleed. All it took was a crazy good wing! I thought it was a runny nose as I was wiping myself with the back of my hand, until some of my wife’s work associates began to point and gasp. Then it was mad scramble for napkins.
My lunch of course was ruined. As I sat with my lips on fire, my fingers burning, and my nose bleeding down my face, I didn’t dare eat another wing in fear that my eyes or ears my be in jeopardy.
The chef gloated as he strutted out for the interview I had requested, as if he had known the outcome in advance. I shook the man’s hand and acknowledged his victory. I didn’t ask for the recipe, and never found out what in the world made that happen. I also didn’t ask for a container for the leftovers.
Maybe too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing. From now on I’m going to order my wings the way everybody else does. In fact, I’m getting a craving right about now . . .
Editor’s Note (Octoberber, 2020): To reiterate, this column was written 26 years ago. There weren’t a lot of flavored wings at the time, hot sauces were just starting to become a thing, and nobody ever talked about some of these crazy peppers and/or Scoville Units. I never again tried to order “hotter than hot” wings and I never again had another bloody nose.
But there's always tomorrow! Wings up!