Fried chicken has long been considered a Southern dish, and cooks vie to make the crispiest, juiciest, most delicious bird possible. Yet the story of fried chicken is filled with challenging contradictions. The dish has complicated roots in slavery and racism—but it also provided a vehicle for African-American entrepreneurship.
Gordonsville, Virginia has long been famous for its fried chicken. After Emancipation, formerly enslaved women used their cooking skills to start their own businesses, selling fried chicken and other snacks to travelers who passed through town on the train.
In this episode of Gastropod, Psyche Williams-Forson, professor at the University of Maryland and author of Building Houses out of Chicken Legs, discusses an unusual scene from African-American fried chicken history.
Know Before You Go
While there’s no museum to the chicken ladies of Gordonsville, Virginia, (formerly known as the “fried chicken capital of the world”) there is still a fried chicken festival there every year. The next one takes place on May 20, 2017, with a first place prize of $100 for the best fried chicken.