Never do I feel as satisfied with the trajectory of my life as when I’m poised to bite into a fried chicken sandwich. The universal components have interlocked magnificently to create this golden moment wherein I sit calmly, sandwich-in-hand, full of purpose and joy. As I write this, I do send my regrets to the chicken, undoubtedly followed henceforth by gratitude for it being so delicious to begin with.
A few summers ago, I accompanied a group of elementary students to the Queens County Farm Museum on a school trip. We took part in a small walking tour visiting the farm animals along the path – sheep, pigs, goats. I remember well arriving at the laying hens. Gradually, my feet lost all momentum. I stood there, inert as a rock, curiously observing the pudgy puffs of brown feather clucking and strutting around. As I watched in silence, one irksome thought tumbled on loop in my brain, “I eat you. I eat you. I eat you. I eat you,” This maniacal mantra clanging inside my head stirred up particles of remorse in its path. Still, even then, guilt-laden as I was, I knew, I wasn’t going to give up eating chicken. I like it too much. Luckily for me, now that I’m in the South, I am surrounded by lots of other like-minded, fried-chicken eating individuals.
On the contrary, when I had witnessed pigs at the Minnesota State Fair, sleeping sweetly on their sides, their bulging bellies so big that their little feet hovered off the floor, I knew no such remorse. Watching these cherub-like animals sleep gave me great contentment. My relationship with pigs has always been free and clear, since growing up Kosher, I do not partake in their meat.
After a Pilates class in West Ashley one day, I chat with the instructor as I put on my shoes. She tells me that she is local to Charleston, and she’s the first person I’ve met yet with that distinction. What with the droves of newcomers (myself included) flocking to the Travel + Leisure named Best City in the World, my instructor’s Charleston roots make her a bit of a unicorn – her words, not mine. Apparently, meeting a native Charlestonian is akin to meeting a native New Yorker. It’s a rare and noteworthy experience. One feels a bit humbled.
“So where are you staying?” she asks me. “Off of Savannah Highway,” I say. “Whereabouts?” she inquires. I think for a moment, racking my brain for a street name, can’t come up with one, and finally settle on, “Near the Boxcar Betty's.” Boxcar Betty's is the fried chicken spot closest to me – a mere few blocks away, which in itself is both a blessing and a curse. They serve their fried chicken in one of three ways – boxcar, waffle or buffalo. I realize that I haven’t actually given her a cross street so I joke, “You know, if you use fried chicken places as landmarks,” She looked nonplussed, “Oh yeah,” she says, “I’m just off of Chick-fil-A.”
Photo Credit: William Moreland